According to a report by IFP, apparently in response to this week’s alleged chemical attack on Syria’s Idlib which the West blames on the government, the US military launched on Friday morning 59 Tomahawk missiles against several targets on al-Shayrat air base in Homs province in western Syria.
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” US President Donald Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The missiles were reportedly fired from the USS Ross and USS Porter, Navy destroyers earlier deployed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Trump ordered the strike just a day after he pointed the finger at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the deadly attack which killed at least 70 people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib.
The foreign-sponsored militants active in the area and some Western officials blamed the attack on the Syrian military whereas Damascus rejected the allegation, insisting it “has never used them [chemical weapons], anytime, anywhere, and will not do so in the future.”
The United States and its allies have repeatedly used chemical weapons as a pretext to pressure the Syrian government. Damascus volunteered to destroy its chemical stockpile in 2014 following a poisonous attack outside the capital.
US Strike Based on Invented Pretext: Kremlin
In reaction to the Friday attack, the Russian government said the strike was based on an “invented pretext” and violated international law, saying the Syrian army did not have chemical weapons.
Moscow — a key Syrian ally — said the unilateral US action would cause “significant damage to US-Russia ties” and create a “serious obstacle” to creating an international coalition to defeat ISIS.
According to the statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin regards the strikes as an attempt to distract attention from the 150 civilians killed by the US during attacks last week in Mosul.
While US defence department officials reported that they informed Russian military officials of the attack, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that there had been no communication at the political level with Russian officials prior to the attack.
US Attack Violates International Law: Iran
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi strongly condemned the missile attack, describing it as a dangerous unilateral move, which violated “indisputable norms of international law”.
In a statement released on Friday, Qassemi highlighted links between the recent US missile strikes and an earlier chemical attack in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, saying Washington has used the chemical attack, whose perpetrators are not known, as a pretext to launch an offensive against the Damascus government.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as the biggest victim of chemical weapons in contemporary history, condemns any use of chemical weapons, regardless of the perpetrators and victims and at the same time regards the use of this pretext to take unilateral measures as a dangerous and destructive (move) and a violation of peremptory norms of international law,” he noted, as reported by Tasnim.
The spokesman further emphasised that the US missile attack on the Syrian government will only strengthen the terrorists, who are on the verge of collapse and complicate the satiation in the Arab country and the region.
US Attacks Should Be Followed up at Int’l Level: France
Meanwhile, French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were both informed of the strikes in advance. They released a joint statement on Friday following a morning phone call.
“[Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad carries the full responsibility for this development. His continuous recourse to chemical weapons and to mass crimes cannot go unpunished,” they said. “This is what France and Germany demanded in the summer of 2013 after the chemical attack in Ghouta.”
Hollande later said that the strikes must be followed up at the international level, preferably with UN action, France 24 reported.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the strikes sent a message to the “criminal regime” of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
“Use of chemical weapons is appalling and should be punished because it is a war crime,” Ayrault told Reuters and France Info radio in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, where he is on a diplomatic visit.
Ayrault went on to say that Russia and Iran needed to understand that there was no future in supporting Assad. In an early morning tweet on Friday, Ayrault said that Assad must be considered a “war criminal”.
Britain Welcomes US Strikes
The British government also welcomed the strikes. Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the US strike was designed to deter Bashar al-Assad from carrying out any further chemical weapons attacks but was not the start of a new military campaign.
A 10 Downing Street spokesperson said, “The UK government fully supports the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks.”
Turkey Praises US Missile Strike
Turkey’s presidency praised the US missile strike on a Syrian air base early Friday.
“We view the US missile strike carried out this morning against Shayrat air base in Homs, Syria as a positive response against the war crimes of Assad,” said presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin in a written statement Friday.
Kalin said making Shayrat air base unusable is an important response to stop the use of chemical and conventional weapons on civilians.
“A no-flight zone and safe haven should be realized urgently in order to prevent similar massacres,” Kalin added.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said it viewed US missile strikes against a Syrian air base “extremely positively” and added that Turkey would fully support steps that would ensure accountability for the Syrian regime.
US Strike on Syria, Courageous Decision by Trump: Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia said it “fully supports” US strikes, terming it a “courageous decision” by Trump in response to the use of chemical weapons against civilians.
“A responsible source at the foreign ministry expressed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s full support for the American military operations on military targets in Syria, which came as a response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians,” a statement carried by state news agency SPA said.
Trump Sends Strong, Clear Message: Israel
The Israeli regime’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supports the “strong and clear message” sent by the US strike.
“In both word and action, President (Donald) Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said. “Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”
Australia Fully Supports US Response to Syria
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “The Australian government strongly supports the swift and just response of the United States. This was a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response.”
Turnbull added that the US had informed Australia before the strike. He said Australia was not involved in the strike, but remained fully committed as a coalition partner to ongoing military operations in Iraq and Syria.
Italy, EU, NATO Support Trump’s Decision
Italy gave its support to the US action, saying it was a suitable response to Syrian aggression and a deterrent against the use of chemical weapons by its leader.
European Union President Donald Tusk said the US missile strikes demonstrated “needed resolve” against chemical attacks. The bloc will work with the US to “end brutality” in Syria, he said.
Nato head Jens Stoltenberg blamed Syria for the US missile strikes. “Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, cannot go unanswered, and those responsible must be held accountable,” he said.