WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Friday ordered precision strikes targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons capabilities. Trump said a combined operation with France and Britain was underway and that they were prepared to sustain the response until Syria stopped its use of chemical weapons.
"A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad," Trump said in a televised address from the White House. "These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead," Trump said referring to Assad and his role in the poison gas attack that killed at least 60 people last week. "The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons," Trump said.
Explosions in Damascus
As Trump gave his televised address, at least six loud explosions were heard in Damascus and smoke was seen rising over the Syrian capital. A witness was quoted as saying that the Barzah district of Damascus had been hit in the strikes. Barzah is the location of a major Syrian scientific research centre.
Syrian TV reports claim that the country's air defence systems have been activated and are responding to the attack. "Syrian air defence blocks American, British, French aggression on Syria," Syrian state television reported.
Britain confirms role in strike
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had authorised British forces to conduct the precision strikes against Syria to degrade its chemical weapons capability. "This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties," May said on Saturday in a statement." May said "a significant body of information including intelligence" pointed to Syrian government responsibility for a suspected chemical attack last Saturday. "There is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime," she said.
May also said that the strikes would "send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity"."This is the first time as prime minister that I have had to take the decision to commit our armed forces in combat -- and it is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britain`s national interest," she added.
Confirming the attack, French President Emmanuel Macron said the strikes in Syria target 'regime chemical weapons capacity. He also added that they 'cannot tolerate normalisation of chemical weapons' in Syria.
Russia warns of 'consequences'
As the US with its allies continues to attack Syria, Russia said that actions will have consequences. "Again, we are being threatened. The worst apprehensions have come true. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences," Anatoly Antonov, Russian Ambassador to US said. The Russian ambassador to the US also said that "all responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris. Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.
(With agency inputs)