WASHINGTON/BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.S., British and French forces struck Syria with more than 100 missiles on Saturday in the first coordinated Western strikes against the Damascus government, targeting what they called chemical weapons sites in retaliation for a poison gas attack.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced the military action from the White House, saying the three allies had “marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality”.
As he spoke, explosions rocked Damascus.
The bombing represents a major escalation putting the West in direct confrontation with Assad’s superpower ally Russia, but is unlikely to alter the course of a multi-sided war which has killed at least half a million people in the past seven years.
That in turn raises the question of where Western countries go from here, after a volley of strikes denounced by Damascus and Moscow as both reckless and pointless.
By morning, the Western countries said their bombing was over for now. Syria released video of President Bashar al-Assad, whose Russian- and Iranian-backed forces have already driven his enemies from Syria’s major towns and cities, arriving at work as usual, with the caption “morning of resilience”.
British Prime Minister Theresa May described the strike as “limited and targeted”. She said she had authorized the British action after intelligence indicated Assad’s government was responsible for the attack using chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Douma a week ago.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the strikes had been limited so far to Syria’s chemical weapons facilities.
With more than 100 missiles fired from ships and manned aircraft, the allies struck three of Syria’s main chemical weapons facilities, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford said.
The targets included a Syrian center in the greater Damascus area for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weaponry as well as a chemical weapons storage facility near the city of Homs. A third target, also near Homs, contained both a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and a command post.
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