15 April 2018
US, UK and France launch attack on ‘chemical weapon sites’ in Syria. Here are all the latest updates.
The US, UK and France have launched strikes “on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities” in Syria, US President Donald Trump announced early on Saturday.
The strikes came after a suspected chemical weapons attack in the former rebel stronghold of Douma last weekend.
Here are all the latest updates on the strikes:
British PM faces backlash for bypassing MPs on Syria
- Prime Minister Theresa May faced backlash from the domestic opposition after launching military strikes on Syria without consulting parliament.
- As the Conservative leader explained her rationale for the air strikes, opposition parties claimed the attacks were legally dubious, risked escalating conflict and should have been approved by lawmakers.
- The shadow of the 2003 invasion of Iraq still lingers in the corridors of Britain’s parliament, when MPs backed then-prime minister Tony Blair in joining US military action.
- “Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace,” said Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party
Syria: Strikes hit ‘parts of but not the heart’ of programme
- A former officer in Syria’s chemical programme says the joint strikes were unlikely to curb the government’s ability to produce chemical weapons or launch new attacks.
- Speaking from rebel-held northern Syria, Adulsalam Abdulrazek told the Associated Press news agency there were an estimated 50 warehouses that stored chemical weapons before the programme was dismantled in 2013. He said he believed those facilities remain or were slightly moved.
- He said the suspected chemical weapons programme was only partially dismantled under the Syria Chemical Weapons Disarmament Deal of 2013 [between the US and Russia] because the Assad government did not allow inspections of existing stockpiles and capabilities.
NATO chief Stoltenberg: All NATO allies back Syria air strikes
- NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday that all NATO allies back Syria air strikes carried out by the US, UK and France on chemical weapons targets in Syria.
- He said the strikes were “intended to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability” and deter further chemical attacks on civilians such as the one in Douma.
- He called on Russia and “all supporters of the Syrian regime” to “exercise responsibility” in the Syrian conflict.
Haley: If Syria uses toxic gas again, the US is ‘locked and loaded’
- Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, has described the Syria strikes as “justified, legitimate and proportionate”.
- “The United States and its allies did everything we could to use the tools of diplomacy to get rid of Assad’s arsenal of chemical weapons. We did not give diplomacy just one chance. We gave diplomacy chance after chance – six times, that’s how much Russia vetoed Security Council resolutions to address chemical weapons in Syria,” she said.
- “I spoke to the US president this morning and he said that if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded. When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line.”
Russia to UN: Condemn ‘aggression’ against Syria
- Russia has urged the UN Security Council to condemn the “aggression” against Syria.
- Russian diplomats circulated the resolution on Saturday in advance of Security Council meeting to discuss the military operation.
Chemical inspectors from The Hague arrive in Syria
- Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have announced their arrival in Damascus.
- In an announcement on social media, OPCW said it will “commence its work” on the investigation of the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians in Douma.
- The work of the organisation, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, is significant as it will determine the veracity of chemical weapons use. But it would not be able to determine who was responsible for the attack.
Turkey’s Erdogan says strikes on Syria ‘appropriate’
- Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the US-led operation in Syria, calling it an “appropriate” response to the recent chemical attack on civilians.
- Binali Yildirim, Turkey’s prime minister, added that it was a “positive step”, saying the people in Syria “have been slaughtered for seven years”.
Pentagon: US air strikes dealt a ‘severe blow’ to Syria
- Lieutenant-General Kenneth F McKenzie Jr, director of joint staff, said the US air strikes delivered a “severe blow” to Syria’s chemical weapons production capability. He said the operation is “far more damaging to Syria”.
- McKenzie also said that none of its missiles was intercepted, and that all weapons hit the targets at their designated time of target of about 4am local time in Syria.
- McKenzie said the US military is “ready anytime” in case of retaliation.
- Dana W White, Pentagon spokesperson, said the use of chemical weapons is an “inexcusable violation of “international law”. She said the US “successfully hit all targets”.
Syria operation: The aftermath
The Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, near Damascus, after the attack [SANA via AP]
What are Syrians saying about the US-led attacks?
- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad releases a video showing it is business as usual in Syria.
- Syrian foreign ministry official condemns the operation as “barbaric aggression”.
- Opposition leader Abdul Rahman Mustafa says strikes send a strong message to Russia and Iran.
EU warns Syria of further sanctions; calls on Russia, Iran to act
- The EU on Saturday called for Russia and Iran to help stop more chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, warning of fresh economic sanctions.
- “The EU calls upon all countries, notably Russia and Iran, to use their influence to prevent any further use of chemical weapons, notably by the Syrian regime,” the EU said in a statement.
- It said the EU had imposed Syrian sanctions in July 2017 and March this year and was “always ready to consider imposing further measures as appropriate”.
Iraq: US-led strikes ‘could have dangerous consequences’
- The Iraqi foreign ministry said that the US-led strikes marked a “very dangerous development”.
- “Such action could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria to retreat to a large extent,” the ministry said in a statement.
Assad: Syria even more determined to ‘fight terrorism’
- President Bashar al-Assad told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani that US-led strikes would increase Syria’s resolve to “fight and crush terrorism in every inch” of the country, the Syrian presidency said on Saturday.
- Rouhani told Assad that Iran would continue to stand by Syria, “expressing his confidence that this aggression would not weaken the determination of the Syrian people in its war against terrorism”.
China: US-led strikes violate international law
- China’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that it believes a political settlement is the only way to resolve the Syrian issue and called for a full, fair and objective investigation into suspected chemical weapon attacks in Syria.
- Hua Chunying, the ministry’s spokeswoman, made the comments at a press conference according to a transcript posted on its website.
- Hua said that China has consistently opposed the use of force in international relations and that any military action that bypassed the UN Security Council violated the principles and basic norms of international law.
What media in Russia, Iran and Syria are saying
- RT: Russian state media’s English language service Russia Today (RT) is carrying comments by President Vladimir Putin condemning the strikes and warning they would lead to a “new wave of asylum seekers from Syria and the whole region”.
- Sputnik: Sputnik, another Russian state-owned media outlet is reporting a claim made by Russian military officials that Syria’s air defence system managed to shoot down a majority of cruise missiles fired by the US.
- Press TV: Iran’s English language media outlet Press TV is leading with the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s denunciation of the US-led strikes as a “crime”.
- Al-Manar: Hezbollah’s media outlet Al-Manar has published a statement by the group condemning the “aggression” against Syria. The group said the “vicious attack on Syria is a blatant violation of the Syrian sovereignty and its people’s dignity.
- SANA: Syria’s state news agency leads with a condemnation of the air strikes and also carries the claim that a majority of missiles fired by the Western states had been intercepted. SANA also published a story claiming the Syrian army had discovered a laboratory used by rebels for “making toxic materials”.
Russia: Syria air defence intercepted 71 missiles
- A senior Russian military official has said that Syrian air defence had intercepted at least 71 cruise missiles fired by US, UK and France forces.
- At a news conference in Moscow on Saturday, Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy said at least 103 cruise missiles, including Tomahawks, were fired into a number of targets in Syria.
- “Russia has improved the Syrian air defence system in the last six months,” Rudskoy said.
France says it fired 12 missiles during Syria intervention
- The French military on Saturday fired 12 missiles during its air strikes on Syria, defence ministry officials said, adding there was no indication the missiles had been intercepted.
May declines to say if Assad can stay after missile strikes
British Prime Minister Theresa May declined to say on Saturday whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should stay in power and said talks with allies would continue on finding a political solution to the civil war.
When asked if Syria’s Assad could remain the leader as long as he refrained from further use of chemical weapons, May said: “This was about, as I have said and you have recognised, this was specifically about the use of chemical weapons.”
- “There is a wider question on the future political solution for Syria and that is a matter that we will continue to pursue in diplomatic and political channels with our international partners and allies,” May said.
May: Reports indicate barrel bomb used in chemical attack on Douma
- British Prime Minister Theresa May said reports indicated that a barrel bomb used in Syrian chemical attack on Douma.
Germany: Strikes were ‘necessary and appropriate’
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the strikes by the US, UK and France against Syria were “necessary and appropriate” response to the suspected chemical attack in Douma.
May: It was right and legal to take military action in Syria
- British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was right and legal to take military action in Syria.
May: We’re clear Syrian government is responsible for chemical attack
- British Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK is clear that the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the suspected chemical attack in Douma.
Putin: Strike on Syria will exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strike on Syria by the US, UK and France will exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
UK’s Corbyn: May should have sought parliamentary approval
- British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Prime Minister Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval before participating in strikes against Syria.
- “Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way,” Corbyn said.
- “Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace,” Corbyn added. “This legally questionable action risks escalating further.”
Iran’s Khamenei calls Trump, Macron and May ‘criminals’
- Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced US President Donald Trump, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Theresa May after they launched strikes against Syria.
- “The attack this morning against Syria is a crime,” Khamenei said in remarks published on his Telegram channel. “The American president, the French president and the British prime minister are criminals.”
Russia calls for UNSC emergency session
- Russia has called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council over the US-led strikes in Syria, the Kremlin said on Saturday.
Turkey was ‘informed’ before strikes on Syria
Turkey was informed before the US, British and French strikes on Syria, ruling AK Party spokesman Mahir Unal said in a televised interview on CNN Turk.
Syrian military: US, UK and France fired 110 missiles
- A Syrian military official said the US, UK and France fired 110 missiles during its joint attack on Saturday.
- “Our air defences effectively shot down most of [the missiles],” Ali Mayhoub said on Syrian state TV. The US has not commented on remarks.
Dutch PM ‘understands’ US-led strikes
- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says his government “understands” the military action of the three NATO allies in Syria because “the use of chemical weapons is a serious crime the international community cannot accept”.
- In an early-morning reaction on his Twitter and Facebook feeds, Rutte said it was likely that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad was behind the suspected chemical attack in Douma.
Russia did not engage its air defence assets in Syria during strikes
- The Russian military said Syria’s air defence shot down 12 cruise missiles aimed at Syrian airbase east of Damascus. The ministry said that altogether more than 100 cruise and air-to-ground missiles were launched by the US, UK and French aircraft and naval shifts. It did not mention the overall number of missiles intercepted by Syrian forces.
Syria’s Assad shown arriving for work in presidency video
- The Syrian presidency posted a video that appeared to show President Bashar al-Assad arriving for work on Saturday just hours after a US-led strike on Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapon attack.
- “The morning of resilience,” declared a caption accompanying the video circulated on the presidency’s Telegram feed, which showed Assad walking into the building.
Turkey welcomes strikes on Syria
- The Turkish foreign ministry said it welcomed US-led strikes on Syria, calling it an “appropriate response”, Reuters news agency reported, citing a foreign ministry source.
Syria: Strikes will not affect army in any way
- “The barbaric aggression … will not affect in any way the determination and insistence of the Syrian people and their heroic armed forces,” state news agency SANA cited an official source as saying.
- “This aggression will only lead to inflaming tensions in the world” and threatens international security, it added.
Russia: Most missiles fired at Syria were intercepted
- Russia’s defence ministry said that the majority of the missiles fired on Syria by the US, UK and France were intercepted by Syrian government air defence system, TASS news agency reported.
France: Russia warned before strikes
- France’s defence minister said Russia was warned before the joint US, UK and French military strikes against Syria.
- “We are not looking for confrontation and refuse any logic of escalation, that is the reason why we, with our allies, ensured the Russians were warned beforehand,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters on Saturday.
France: Strikes were legitimate, limited and proportionate
- France’s foreign minister said the joint military operation against Syria is legitimate, limited and proportionate
Key quotes from Trump’s address on Syria:
- “A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now under way. We thank them both.”
- “Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians – this time in the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital of Damascus. This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.”
- “The evil and the despicable attack left mother and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.”
- “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.”
- “To Iran and to Russia, I ask: what kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?”
- “America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances.”
- “The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”
Five things to know about the US-led strikes in Syria
- According to US President Donald Trump, “the purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons”.
- The US and its allies launched more than 100 strikes on Syria in a “one-time shot”, officials at the Pentagon said. According to a Syrian government official, around 30 missiles were fired in the attack, and a third of them were shot down.
- The US used Tomahawk cruise missiles in its strikes in Syria, which were fired at multiple targets in the country, a US official said.
- Joseph Dunford, Washington’s top general, said the “precision strikes” hit three targets: A scientific research centre near Damascus that is allegedly connected to the production of the chemical weapons; a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs; a command post near the capital.
- Russia’s ambassador to the US warned that there would be consequences for the strikes, adding that it was not acceptable to insult Russia’s president.
Iran: Strikes are ‘flagrant violation of international law’
- Iran’s foreign ministry has said the strikes against Syria by the US, UK and France are a “flagrant violation of international law” that “ignores sovereignty of Syria”, Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said.
UN chief urges restraint after strikes on Syria
- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on UN member states “to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people”.
- “Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent. The suffering it causes is horrendous. I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. I urge the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and fill this gap,” he added.
Iran warns of ‘regional consequences’ of strikes
- The Iranian foreign ministry strongly condemned the strikes against Syria by the US, UK and France.
- It also warned of their regional consequences, Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said.
US Democratic leaders cautiously welcome decision on strikes
- Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer called the strikes “appropriate”, but said, “the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria”.
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said: “One night of air strikes is not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy.”
US Republican leaders praise Trump’s decision on strikes
- US House Speaker Paul Ryan praised Trump’s “decisive action in coordination with our allies”, adding: “We are united in our resolve.”
- Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain applauded the strikes but says “they alone will not achieve US objectives in the Middle East.”
Syria state TV: Strikes targeting position in Homs were thwarted
- “The missiles that targeted a military position in Homs were thwarted and diverted from their path, and injured three civilians,” state news agency SANA said.
Syria state TV: Only material losses at research centre near Damascus
- Syrian state media said that the US-led strikes caused material damage at a scientific research centre in the Barzeh district of Damascus.
- The attack destroyed a building that includes a learning centre and laboratories, state TV said.
Strikes in Syria did not hit areas near Russian bases: Moscow
- The Russian defence ministry said that none of the rockets launched in the Syria attack entered the zones where Russian air defence systems are protecting facilities, Russian press agency TASS reported.
Protesters in Damascus rally against US-led strikes: reports
- Protesters are rallying in Damascus against the US, UK and French military action in Syria, Lebanese media are reporting.
Amnesty urges Trump to take in Syrian refugees
- Amnesty International warned that air strikes on Syria should “minimise harm to civilians” and urged Trump to take in Syrian refugees.
- “All precautions must be taken to minimise harm to civilians in any military action,” Raed Jarrar, advocacy director for Middle East North Africa at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement on Saturday.
- “The Trump administration must not turn its back on the suffering of men, women, and children by continuing to ban refugees from entering the United States. It is time for the US to reopen our doors to people trying to escape from the violence in Syria,” Jarrar added.
Russia: ‘Pre-designed scenario is being implemented’
- Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the US, said on Twitter that Russia “warned such actions will not be left without consequences”.
- “A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,” he tweeted, adding “again, we are being threatened”.
Washington informed Tel Aviv of attack: sources
- US officials informed Israel of the timing of the attack, Israeli sources say.
Pro-Assad official: Targets evacuated prior to attack
- The Syrian government evacuated the targeted sites days ago thanks to a warning from Russia, a senior official in a regional alliance that backs Damascus told Reuters news agency.
- “We had an early warning of the strike from the Russians … and all military bases were evacuated a few days ago,” Reuters quoted the official as saying.
- The official added that around 30 missiles were fired in the attack, saying “we are carrying out an assessment of the material damages”.
NATO chief: I support actions of US and allies
- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he supported the actions taken by the US, UK and France against Syria.
- “I support the actions taken by the United States, the United Kingdom and France against the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities and capabilities. This will reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons,” Stoltenberg said in a statement on Saturday.
Syrian opposition leader: All attacks on civilians must stop
- Syrian opposition leader Nasra al-Hariri called for the end to all attacks against civilians in Syria.
- “Maybe the regime will not use chemical weapons again, but it will not hesitate to use weapons the international community has allowed it, such as barrel bombs and cluster bombs,” Hariri said in a tweet early on Saturday.
Russia: Syria hit as country had ‘chance for peaceful future’
- Russia’s foreign ministry says Syria was attacked at the very moment the country had a “chance for a peaceful future”, Russian news agency RIA reported.
- Maria Zakharova, the ministry spokeswoman, wrote on Facebook: “Those behind all this claim moral leadership in the world and declare they are exceptional. You need to be really exceptional to shell Syria’s capital at the moment when it had gained a chance of a peaceful future.”
- The foreign ministry also said that Western media has some responsibility for the attack on Syria, which was based on its reports, according to RIA.
‘Three targets hit’
- Joseph Dunford, Washington’s top general, said the precision strikes hit three targets – a scientific research centre near Damascus, a storage facility and command post also near the capital and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs.
US top general: US did not notify Russia of targets
- Washington’s top general, Joesph Dunford, said Russia’s forces in Syria had been warned through existing “deconfliction” channels that Western planes would be in Syrian airspace, but that Washington had not revealed the target sites or timing in advance.
US chairman of joint chiefs of staff: First wave of attacks ends
- US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford announced the first wave of attacks has ended.
Syrian state media says US-led strikes hit army depots
- Syrian state media called the attacks by the US, France and the UK “a flagrant violation of international law”, adding that the attacks had targeted army depots in the Homs area.
Russia warned ‘such actions won’t be left without consequences’
- The Russian ambassador to the US said in a statement on the strikes that Russia warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences”.
Mattis: ‘Right now, this is a one-time shot’
- “Right now, this is a one-time shot, and I believe it has sent a very strong message,” US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said.
Syrian state TV: Syrian air defences responded to attack
- Syrian state TV reports that Syrian air defences responded to the strikes by the US, UK and France
Explosions heard in Damascus
- As Trump announced the strikes, explosions were heard from Damascus, Reuters news agency reported.
Emmanuel Macron confirms France’s involvement
- French President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed France’s involvement in the strikes.
UK’s Theresa May: Strikes meant to ‘deter the use of chemical weapons’
UK Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Britain’s involvement in the strikes, saying: “We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.”
She said the strikes were not about “regime change” or “intervening in a civil war”, but were to “deter the use of chemical weapons” by the Syrian government.
Trump: ‘I ordered precision strikes’
- “I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,” Trump said from the White House late on Friday.
- The purpose of the campaign is to “establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons,” the US president said.