Syria air strikes: Trump hails ‘perfect’ mission

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US President Donald Trump has hailed an overnight military strike on Syria as “perfectly executed”, adding: “Mission Accomplished”.

The US, UK and France attacked three government sites, targeting what they said were chemical weapons facilities.

More than 100 missiles struck in response to a suspected deadly chemical attack on the town of Douma last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he condemned the Western strikes “in the most serious way”.

Russia, whose forces are bolstering Syria’s government, had threatened military retaliation if any Russian personnel had been hit.

In early morning tweets from Washington, President Trump thanked France and the UK for “their wisdom and the power of their fine military”.

A Pentagon briefing on Saturday said the strikes had “set the Syrian chemical weapons programme back for years”.

Later there was a bitter exchange between the US and Russia at the United Nations.

The wave of strikes is the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad’s government by Western powers in seven years of Syria’s civil war.

Responding to the strikes, Mr Assad said in comments published by his office: “This aggression will only make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country.”

Where was hit?

At a Pentagon briefing on Saturday, Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie listed the three targets that had been struck in a “precise, overwhelming and effective” manner:

  • The Barzah chemical weapons research and development centre near Damascus was hit by 76 missiles, 57 of them Tomahawk cruise missiles, and “destroyed”
  • The Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage facility near Homs was hit by 22 missiles – nine US Tomahawks, eight British Storm Shadows and five naval cruise missiles and two Scalp cruise missiles launched by France
  • The Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker facility near Homs was targeted with seven Scalp missiles and was “successfully hit”

Gen McKenzie said the “initial indications are that we accomplished the military objectives without interference from Syria”.

He said “none of the aircraft or missiles were successfully engaged” by defence systems and all aircraft had returned.

Gen McKenzie said about 40 Syrian defence missiles were fired, mostly after the targets were hit. No Russian defence systems were operated, he said.

The Pentagon briefing conflicted with information given at a Russian defence ministry briefing, which said Russian units had tracked the actions of the US and UK forces, but not the French.

The ministry said 103 cruise missiles had been launched and 71 were shot down by Syrian systems.

It accepted the “alleged chemical weapons facilities” near Damascus and Homs were “partially destroyed”.

The ministry said there were other locations that were targeted but not hit, including Damascus International Airport and the al-Dumayr and Blai airdromes, and the Shayrat air base.

The ministry said “preliminary information” suggested there had been no casualties among the Syrian army or civilians.

The Pentagon said it also had no confirmation of any civilian casualties.

The US had communicated with Russia ahead of the strikes through the normal procedures of their “deconfliction” hotline, which is used to prevent accidental clashes in a war zone.

There had been concerns that if the US strike had hit Russian military personnel on the ground, it would further escalate tension.

The US says the scale of the strikes was about “double” what was launched in April 2017 after a chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people.

 

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