U.S., British and French forces hammered Syria with air strikes early Saturday Syria time in response to a poison gas attack that killed dozens of people last week, in the biggest intervention by Western powers in Syria’s civil war.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced the military action from the White House late on Friday. As he spoke, explosions rocked Damascus.
Trump said he was prepared to sustain the response until the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stopped its use of chemical weapons.
The intervention was the biggest strike by Western powers against Assad in the country’s seven-year-old civil war and pitted the United States and its allies against Russia, which itself intervened in the war in 2015 to back Assad.
“A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,” Trump said in a televised address from the White House.
A U.S. official told Reuters the strikes were aimed at multiple targets and involved Tomahawk cruise missiles.
At least six loud explosions were heard in Damascus in the early hours of Saturday and smoke was seen rising over the Syrian capital, a Reuters witness said. A second witness said the Barzah district of Damascus had been hit in the strikes. Barzah is the location of a major Syrian scientific research center.
Speaking of Assad and his suspected role in last week’s chemical weapons attack, Trump said, “These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.”
The U.S. president had sharply critical words for both Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad’s government.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had authorized British armed forces “to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability.” She described it as a “limited and targeted strike” aimed at minimizing civilian casualties.
The military action is not about intervening in Syria’s civil war or changing its government, she said.
Damascus research center, army bases struck in attack
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a scientific research center and military bases in Damascus were struck in an attack by the United States, France and Britain on Saturday.
The Syrian army’s Republican Guard and 4th Division, elite units of the Syrian military, were struck in the attack.
Syrian air defenses shot down 13 missiles: state TV
Syrian air defenses shot down 13 missiles fired in a U.S.-led attack on the country on Saturday, Syrian state TV said.
It said the missiles had been shot down in the Kiswah area south of Damascus, the capital.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of three scientific research centers had been hit in the attacks – two in Damascus and one in the Homs area – in addition to military bases in Damascus.
The Observatory said all the bases and facilities struck in the attack had been evacuated by the Syrian government earlier this week.
Assad hides aircraft in safety of Russian hangars
SYRIAN president Bashar al-Assad has reportedly been hiding his warplanes within Russia’s bases to save them from being obliterated by the US missile blitz.
Syria’s attempts to shelter its aircraft could hamper efforts by Britain, the US and France to inflict serious damage on Assad’s militar
But after Donald Trump made it very loud and clear on Wednesday that his military was about to attack in a bombastic tweet, the regime has had plenty of time to prepare for the strikes.
Trump’s tweet read: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria.
“Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!”
“You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
The allied forces will reportedly be monitoring the movement of Assad’s planes from the shelter with the aim of shooting them as as soon as they make a move, even after the air strike mission is completed
Pentagon briefing on Syria strike
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he is “absolutely confident” that Syrian President Bashar Assad is behind the alleged chemical attack on his people that the U.S. and allies retaliated against Friday night.
Mattis tells reporters he is certain Assad conducted a chemical attack on innocent people.
He says the U.S. is “very much aware of one of the chemical agents used.” And he says there may have been a second.
Congress supports the airstrikes
Congressional leaders are supporting President Donald Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad in retaliation for an apparent chemical attack against civilians — although there are some reservations.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is praising Trump’s “decisive action in coordination with our allies,” adding, “We are united in our resolve.”
Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain is applauding the airstrikes but says “they alone will not achieve U.S. objectives in the Middle East.”
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is calling the airstrikes “appropriate,” but says “the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria.”
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says, “One night of airstrikes is not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy.”
Likening Trump to Hitler
A highly placed Russian politician is likening President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler after the launch of airstrikes against Syria, and says he regards the action as a move against Russia.
Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee, says Trump “can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time — because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union.”
That’s according to state news agency RIA-Novosti. The Nazi forces’ opening attack against the USSR in 1941 was launched around 4 a.m.
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