Syria air strikes: US, Britain, France launch air strikes in Syria
- Western powers said on Saturday their missile attacks struck at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons program.
The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles overnight in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a week ago, targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities, including a research and development center in Damascus’ Barzeh district and two installations near Homs.
The bombing was the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and his superpower ally Russia, but the three countries said the strikes were limited to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.
Ten hours after the missiles hit, smoke was still rising from the remains of five destroyed buildings of the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, where a Syrian employee said medical components were developed.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Late on Saturday Syria time, a large explosion was heard in a Syrian government-controlled area in a rural region south of Aleppo, according to the Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory said the cause of the explosion was unknown, as well as its target.
Syria and its allies also made clear that they considered the attack a one-off, unlikely to do meaningful harm to Assad.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the strikes were “unacceptable and lawless.”
Russia had promised to respond to any attack on its ally, but the Pentagon said no Russian air defense systems were used. Syria fired 40 unguided surface-to-air missiles - but only after the Western strikes had ended, the Pentagon said.
Washington described the strike targets as a center near Damascus for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons; a chemical weapons storage site near the city of Homs; and another site near Homs that stored chemical weapons equipment and housed a command post.
The Pentagon said there had been chemical weapons agents at one of the targets, and that the strikes had significantly crippled Syria’s ability to produce such weapons.
The Western countries took precautions to avoid unexpected conflict with Russia. French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Russians was warned beforehand to avert conflict.
“We believe that by hitting Barzeh, in particular, we’ve attacked the heart of the Syrian chemicals weapon program,” U.S. Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said at the Pentagon.
However, McKenzie acknowledged elements of the program remain and he could not guarantee that Syria would be unable to conduct a chemical attack in the future.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that Trump told her that if Syria uses poisonous gas again, “The United States is locked and loaded.”
- source : Reuters