U.S., France, U.K. to brief NATO allies today on Syria strikes

Here is the latest:

  • 3 sites near Damascus and Homs targeted
  • U.S. calls overnight strikes ‘a one-time shot’
  • Pentagon briefing scheduled for 9 a.m. ET
  • Putin calls for UN Security Council meeting
  • Iran says it stands by Syria in conflict

The United States, France and Britain fired more than 100 missiles at Syria in what the Pentagon is calling a “one-time shot,” following evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians last weekend using at least chlorine gas.

The three allies will brief NATO envoys later Saturday about their pre-dawn, co-ordinated airstrikes, launched around 4 a.m. local time in Syria.

NATO was not involved in the operation, but NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday in a statement that he supported the strikes.

“This will reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons,” Stoltenberg said.

Trump says U.S., allies will launch “precision strikes” until the Syrian government stops the use of chemical weapons.7:42

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said three main chemical weapons facilities were targeted by missiles from both the sea and aircraft, which triggered Syrian air defences.

The Syrian military said the targets were a military base in Syria’s central Homs province and the scientific research centre in Barzeh, near Damascus.

Mattis says if Assad uses chemical weapons again, there could be more strikes.0:54

Pentagon officials say the attacks were aimed at Assad’s programs to develop and produce chemical weapons. U.S. President Donald Trump said the operation was in response to the “evil and despicable” attack last Saturday on civilians.

When asked by a reporter in Washington on Friday night if there would be more strikes, Mattis said, “That will depend on Mr. Assad, should he decide to use more chemical weapons in future … but right now, this is a one-time shot, and I believe it has sent a very strong message to deter Assad from doing this again.”

Syrian state TV has broadcast images of the destruction at the research centre that was targeted.

A British Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado comes into land at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus on Saturday after conducting strikes in support of Operations over the Middle East. The British ministry of defence reports that four RAF Tornado’s took part in precision strikes on Syrian installations assessed to be involved in the use of chemical weapons.(Cpl. L. Matthew/British ministry of defence/EPA-EFE)

The images shown on Al-Ikhbariya TV are the first of one of the targets. Seen in the footage are piles of rubble outside a destroyed building and a burned vehicle.

France’s foreign minister is threatening further missile strikes against Syria if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons again. Last Saturday, a suspected chemical attack was blamed for killing more than 40 people in Douma, near the capital Damascus, according to NGOs and aid organizations. The Syrian regime and its ally Russia have issued various denials.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement on Saturday saying the “despicable and barbaric” attack killed up to 75 people, including young children, and that there were as many as 500 further casualties.

U.K. says weapons depot targeted

“For the U.K.’s part, four RAF Tornado GR 4’s launched storm shadow missiles at a military facility some 15 miles (24 kilometres) west of Homs, where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapons in breach of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention,” she said.

Russian Gen. Sergei Rudskoi speaks during a briefing in Moscow on Saturday. He said the airstrikes haven’t caused any casualties. However, Syrian state media says while the strikes only caused limited damage, there are reports of six civilian casualties close to the city of Homs. (Vadim Savitsky, Russian defence ministry press service via AP)

France joined the United States and Britain in the joint operation that has destroyed what Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says is a “good part” of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons arsenal.

He says France has “no doubt” that the Syrian government was behind last Saturday’s suspected chemical attacks.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron were all on board with the strike.(AFP/Getty Images)

The airstrikes are a “dangerous development,” which could be be exploited by “terrorists,” Iraq’s foreign ministry said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Assad in a phone call that Iran “stands by Syria,” the Syrian presidency said on Saturday.

Germany’s chancellor said the allied strikes in Syria were a “necessary and appropriate” response. Angela Merkel said her government believes the theU.S., Britain and France “took responsibility in this way as permanent members of the UN Security Council.”

The U.S.-led attack will negatively impact peace negotiations, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry said on Saturday, the state-run RIA news agency reported.

Experts react to co-ordinated strikes in Syria, as we learn more about the decision by the U.S., France and the U.K. to launch military action. The National spoke to Brian Stewart with the Munk School of Global Affairs and Thom Nichols, a professor at the U.S Naval War college where he teaches on national security, to get their thoughts on the potential fallout of the co-ordinated strikes.8:31

“This action gives a strong signal to extremists and militants that they are doing right things,” RIA quoted Maria Zakharova as saying. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the overnight strikes and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

Support from Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement condemning last week’s attack on Douma in the “strongest possible terms.”

He said Canada supports the decision by the three countries to “take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people.”

“We will continue to work with our international partners to further investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those responsible must be brought to justice.”

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