- I ordered a targeted military strike on the airbase says Trump;
- This step by Washington will inflict major damage on U.S.-Russia ties says Russia;
- Take Assad’s air force completely out of the fight says McCain;
- Russia suspends communication with U.S. forces designed to stop planes colliding over Syria;
US President Donald Trump orders 59 missile strike on Syria Friday at a military base in retaliatory response over alleged President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on civilians in the country’s long civil war.
The missiles targeted the Shayrat air base near Homs, and were in response to a Tuesday chemical weapons attack. Officially announcing the strike, President Donald Trump said the targeted airfield had launched the chemical attack on a rebel-held area, and he called on other nations to oppose Syria’s embattled leader.
While confirming the approved missile strike President Donald Trump said: “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Mr Trump said in remarks at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
Mr Trump added: “Previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have failed and failed very badly. Tonight, I’m calling all civilised nations to help us end the slaughter and bloodshed.”
“On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack,” Trump said Thursday night.
A U.S. defense official called the U.S. strike a “one-off,” Reuters reported. Nine civilians including four children were killed, the Syrian state news agency claimed, but the Pentagon said civilians were not targeted.
The Pentagon released details on the strike, saying it was conducted using Tomahawk missiles launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the eastern Mediterranean.
“A total of 59 (Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles) targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement. “As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.”
The US strikes order by Trump has thrown Washington into confrontation with Russia, which has military advisers on the ground aiding its ally, President Assad. The Kremlin denounced the strikes as illegal.
“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said as he announced the attack from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he was meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack,” he said of Tuesday’s chemical weapons strike, which Western countries blame on Assad’s forces. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
In response over the strike against it sovereignty Assad’s office said Damascus would respond by striking its enemies harder: “This aggression has increased Syria’s resolve to hit those terrorist agents, to continue to crush them, and to raise the pace of action to that end wherever they are.”
U.S. officials said that the strike was a “one-off” intended to deter future chemical weapons attacks, and not an expansion of the U.S. role in the Syria war.
Russian deputy U.N. envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, issued a warning ahead of the U.S. attack.
“We have to think about negative consequences, negative consequences, and all the responsibility if military action occurred will be on shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise,” Safronkov told reporters when asked about possible U.S. strikes, adding that such consequences could be seen in Iraq and Libya.
Russia’s response Friday morning said the strikes violated international law and would do significant damage to relations between Russia and the U.S.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported comments from the Kremlin which said the strikes had happened under a “far-fetched pretext.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that President Vladimir Putin believed the U.S. attacks on Syria showed aggression against a sovereign state.
“President Putin views the U.S. strikes on Syria as aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law and on a made-up up pretext,” said a Kremlin statement. “This step by Washington will inflict major damage on U.S.-Russia ties.”
U.S. officials said they had taken pains to ensure Russian troops were not killed, warning Russian forces in advance and avoiding striking parts of the base where Russians were present.
Russian television showed craters and rubble at the airbase and said nine aircraft had been destroyed.
Moscow promptly suspended communication with U.S. forces designed to stop planes colliding over Syria.
A Russian frigate carrying cruise missiles sailed through the Bosphorus Strait into the Mediterranean Sea, although there was no indication it was directly in response to U.S. action.
Several Western allies of the United States described the U.S. strikes as a proportionate response to Assad’s suspected use of poison gas. A number of countries said they were notified in advance but none had been asked to take part.
“This clearly indicates the president is willing to take decisive action when called for,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters. “I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or our posture relative to our military activities in Syria today. There has been no change in that status.”
Two Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, praised the strike in a statement and called for Mr Trump to go further and to “take Assad’s air force completely out of the fight”.
‘Opposition lauds Trump’
Opposition figures said an isolated assault on a single target was still far from the decisive intervention they have sought for many years.
“One airbase is not enough. There are 26 airbases that target civilians,” tweeted Mohammad Alloush, a senior rebel official. George Sabra, a prominent opposition politician, told al-Hadath TV: “The truth is that militarily, if it is limited to this strike, then it has no meaning.”
Meheyedine Akkari, a Syrian refugee living in a tent in Lebanon, told Reuters TV he expected the U.S. strikes to have no effect on the war: “It is like giving the Syrian people who are bleeding a painkiller, but they will still continue to bleed until the last drop.”
“No doubt this will leave great tension on the political level, but I do not expect a military escalation,” a senior, non-Syrian official in the alliance fighting in support of Assad who declined to be identified told Reuters. “Currently I do not believe that we are going toward a big war in the region.”
‘US-RUSSIA role in Syria’
The US has long backed rebels fighting against Assad in a multi-sided civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people and driven half of Syrians from their homes since 2011.
Washington has been conducting air strikes against Islamic State militants who control territory in eastern and northern Syria, and a small number of U.S. troops are on the ground assisting anti-Islamic State militias. But until now, Washington had avoided direct confrontation with Assad.
On the other hand, Russia joined the war on Assad’s behalf in 2015, an action that decisively puts victory of the conflict in favor of the Syrian government.
Although they support opposing sides in the war between Assad and rebels, Washington and Moscow both say they share a single main enemy, Islamic State.
Trump’s decision to strike Syrian government forces is a notable shift for a leader who in the past had repeatedly said he wanted better relations with Moscow, including to cooperate with Russia to fight Islamic State.
Credits: Reuters, stingged.com, Independent, cnbc, Aljazeera,