US warns it is ‘locked and loaded’ if Assad uses chemical weapons again

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  • Trump: ‘Mission accomplished’ after Syria strikes
  • May: it was ‘right and legal’ to take military action
  • Russia warns of ‘consequences’ as Syria blasts ‘illegal’ action
  • Russia claims Syria shot down 71 of the 103 missiles
  • Footage ‘shows destroyed chemical weapon research facility’
  • How the world reacted to the Syrian airstrikes ​
  • Read Donald Trump and Theresa May’s statements in full  ​

Donald Trump has hailed coordinated US, British and French air strikes on Syria as “mission accomplished”.

The military action was launched in the early hours of Saturday morning to punish the Syrian regime for a chemical weapons attack.

The US president said the military action by US, British and French jets had been “perfectly executed”.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!

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At a press conference in Downing Street on Saturday morning, Theresa May said: “There is no graver decision for a prime minister than to commit our forces to combat and this is the first time I have had to do so.”

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said the strike had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations” and called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Three Syrian sites involved in the use of chemical weapons were targeted in the attack – one scientific facility near Damascus and two storage facilities near Homs. Pentagon officials said that 105 missiles had been fired in the strike at the three targets.

Addressing the nation in a televised statement late on Friday evening, Mr Trump said it was a response to the “evil and despicable” chemical attack by the Syrian regime last Saturday.

He said: “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.”

Mr Trump added: “To Iran and to Russia I ask – what kind of regime wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?

“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No state can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.”

Mrs May said on Saturday morning that the UK was “confident” that the strikes had succeeded in degrading Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile and in deterring future use.

She said the strikes were not about “intervening in a civil war” or “regime change” but to ensure chemical weapons were not used again.

She said: “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.

“And while this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian Regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, called the strikes “legally questionable” and said Mrs May should have sought Parliamentary approval for the attack “not trailed after Donald Trump”.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said: “The facts and the responsibility of the Syrian regime [for Saturday’s attack] are not in any doubt. The red line set by France in May 2017 has been crossed.”

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, condemned the attack and said there would be “consequences”.

He said: “The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard. A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened.

“We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.

“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.”

Syrian state media slammed Western strikes on Saturday as illegal.

“The aggression is a flagrant violation of international law, a breach of the international community’s will, and it is doomed to fail,” said state news agency SANA.

The missiles were launched around 9pm, Washington DC time, as Mr Trump stepped before the cameras in the White House to address the nation.

Some missiles were targeted by surface-to-air missile systems controlled by the Syrian regime, according to the Pentagon.

The sites chosen were involved in the “research, development and deployment” of chemical weapons, a Pentagon official said.

One target was a scientific facility in the greater Damascus area which had been involved in researching and testing chemical weapons.

Damascus sky lights up with surface to air missile fire 
Damascus sky lights up with surface to air missile fire  CREDIT: AP

Two targets were near the city of Homs. Both were chemical weapons storage facilities, one had also been used as a command post.

The sites had been chosen to minimise civilian casualties and avoid Russian troops stationed on the ground in Syria.

James Mattis, the US defence secretary, said more than double the number of missiles were used than in the US air strike against Syria in April 2017, when 59 missiles were launched.  He also confirmed that the strike was over during a Pentagon briefing at around 10.10pm, meaning it lasted no more than 70 minutes.

Russia was not warned before the air strikes were launched and there was no explicit coordination over the attack, a Pentagon official said.

A US-Russia “deconfliction line” to avoid crashes over Syrian airspace was used, the official said, but he stressed it is used most days.

 A fighter jet lands at Akrotiri military British Royal Air Force Base, Cyprus
 A fighter jet lands at Akrotiri military British Royal Air Force Base, Cyprus CREDIT: AP

Britain used Four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s to launch Storm Shadow missiles at one of the facilities near Homs, the Ministry of Defence said.

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, said the strikes were “highly successful” and that all RAF crews had returned safely. He said the strikes played “an important role in terms of degrading the Syrian regime in using chemical weapons in the future”. (Click to Source)

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