Western allies launch strikes on targets inside Syria; Russia, Iran, China condemn

UPDATE — 4/15, 10:10 a.m. EDT: Less than 24 hours after the U.N. Security Council voted down a resolution to condemn airstrikes on Syrian sites, CNN has learned a new document will be submitted by France with U.S. and U.K. support that calls for an investigation into last week’s civilian attack seeking a “verifiable and irreversible way,” to end Damascus’ chemical weapons program.

OPCW investigators began an inquiry of the attack on Douma Saturday, but the new U.N. resolution submitted by Western allies will call for a sped-up process and an independent review of evacuations from the area of attack.

 

In response to a suspected April 7 chemical attack perpetrated against the Syrian town of Douma by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the United States and its British and French allies launched airstrikes on suspected chemical weapon sites inside Syria on Friday night.

To carry out the airstrikes, the U.S. has admitted it and its British allies fired over 100 missiles launched from warships and submarines in the Mediterranean.  Manned aircraft also participated in the raid.

Three Syrian civilians are reported to be injured.  Russia claims air defenses shot down 71 of 103 missiles launched from U.S., British and French warships and aircraft, while the Pentagon says 40 Syrian defense missiles missed their marks.

Invoking the suspected Syrian chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun almost one years ago and thanking both the U.K. and France for their participation in the strikes, President Trump said in a statement from the White House:

“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States. The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power: military, economic, and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

Addressing reporters after the attack from the Pentagon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford acknowledged the strikes had targeted a research facility in Damascus and chemical weapon storage depots and a command outpost in Homs.

Speaking alongside Dunford, Defense Secretary James Mattis told journalists no further strikes were planned.

Map showing where strikes hit in Syria

Unverified reports from inside Syria say Masyaf, to the north of Damascus; arms storage facilities in Qalamoun; targets in Kisweh south of Damascus; and a military site in Qasyoun near Damascus were also targets of the airstrikes.

In a statement angrily denouncing the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin “seriously condemns” the raids.  He called the attacks an “act of aggression against a sovereign state at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.”

In similar responses censuring the raid, Iran warned of consequences and China’s foreign ministry issued a statement which read:

“Any unilateral military action violates the United Nations charter and its principles and international law and its principles. (The strike) is also going to add more factors to complicate the resolution of the Syrian crisis.”

Early Saturday morning, President Trump thanked the U.K. and France and declared the mission a success.

Ahead of the strikes, the U.S. and France had engaged in talks over a response, with the U.K. joining shortly after.

The strikes took place after last-minute pleas from Russia to allow investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to conduct an inquiry.

 

[Reuters] [The Guardian] [The Telegraph via Yahoo] [Channel NewsAsia] [Photo courtesy AP/Washington Examiner]

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