The United States, the United Kingdom, and France launched in the early hours of Saturday airstrikes on military and chemical research sites in Syria in retaliation for the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians last week.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis told a Pentagon press briefing that the strikes used were around double the amount of missiles used in a US strike against Syrian government targets last year. He added that three main Syrian military sites were targeted, including a research facility in Damascus connected to the production of weapons, a chemical weapons storage facility in Homs, and a weapons storage and command post near the city of Homs.
The strikes took place minutes after President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that his country, the United Kingdom, and France had launched precision strikes on Syrian military sites believed to be housing chemical weapons facilities, following last week’s chemical weapons attack in Douma, which the US said was carried out by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces.
Trump described Al-Assad described as a “monster,” adding, “the evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants, and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air.” Trump further said of the attack: “these are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.”
Trump also challenged Iran and Russia, saying, “what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?”
As the speech was coming to an end, loud blasts were reportedly heard in the Syrian capital Damascus. The airstrikes began around 4:00 am local time in Syria, while witnesses said the Syrian sky turned orange.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, the strikes struck a number of military bases and a scientific research centre.
However, the Syrian government and its allies claimed to anticipate the US-led attack, and the targeted sites were evacuated days ago thanks to a warning from Russia, a senior official of the Russian-spearheaded alliance that backs Damascus said. “We have absorbed the strike,” the official told Reuters.
“We had an early warning of the strike from the Russians…and all military bases were evacuated a few days ago,” the official added.
Around 30 missiles were fired in the attack, and a third of them were shot down, the official said.
“We are carrying out an assessment of the material damages,” the official added. Syrian state media said the strikes caused material damage only at a scientific research centre in the Barzeh district of Damascus on Friday.
Both the Syrian government and its ally Russia have condemned the attack as a violation of international law.