Syria airstrikes UPDATES | Trump calls it 'perfectly executed strike'; UN Security Council rejects Russian attempt to condemn US aggression
As Trump announced actions against the Syrian government, explosions were heard in the Syrian capital Damascus, signalling a new chapter in a brutal seven-year-old civil war.
The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of punitive strikes against Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime on Saturday in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the "crimes of a monster."
Here are the latest updates:
15 April, 7.00 am IST: The UN Security Council overwhelmingly rejects a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of "aggression" by the United States, United Kingdom and France against Syria today, a vote reflecting support for the allied air strikes on Syrian chemical sites.
But the vote at the end of an emergency meeting called by Russia also demonstrated again the paralysis of the UN's most powerful body in dealing with Syria's seven-year conflict.
The UN Security Council will meet Saturday at Russia's request to discuss air strikes launched by the United States, France and Britain on Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will brief the council during the public meeting scheduled for 11:00 am (1500 GMT), a UN official said.
"A perfectly executed strike," US President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday in the aftermath of his second decision in two years to fire missiles against Syria. His choice of words recalled a similar claim associated with President George W. Bush following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
A global chemical warfare watchdog group says its fact-finding mission to Syria will go ahead even after the US-led airstrikes.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says in a statement that its team will stick to its plan to investigate last weekend's suspected poison gas attack in Douma.
The group says the mission "will continue its deployment to the Syrian Arab Republic to establish facts around the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma."
Russia and Syria disagree with Western allies that gas was used by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces to suppress opposition close to Damascus in an April 7 attack.
Iranian officials have made calls to Syrian leaders in the wake of the U.S.-led airstrikes against Syrian targets.
Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani (hah-SAHN' roh-HAH'-nee), tells Syria's Bashar Assad (bah-SHAR' AH'-sahd) that America's goal is to justify its continued presence in the region.
That description of their conversation comes from Syrian and Iranian state news agencies.
Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has spoken with his Syrian counterpart, too. Zarif says the U.S. is using allegations of chemical weapons to justify attacking Syria before inspectors from a chemical weapons watchdog agency begin their work.
4.15pm: Saudi Arabia on Saturday expressed its full support for US-led strikes on Syrian government military installations, saying they were a response to "regime crimes" against civilians.
"Saudi Arabia fully supports the strikes launched by the United States, France and Britain against Syria because they represent a response to the regime's crimes," a foreign ministry statement said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Western strikes on government military installations Saturday only made him more keen to fight back against his opponents, in comments published by his office.
Iraq warned that Western air strikes Saturday on Syria were a "very dangerous" development that could fuel a jihadist resurgence in the region. A statement by foreign ministry spokesman Ahmad Mahjoub said the strikes' "consequences threaten the security and stability of the region".
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency says Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (hah-meh-neh-EE') has called the U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria a "military crime."
He spoke at a meeting with Iranian officials and ambassadors from some Islamic countries.
The report quotes Khamenei as calling the leaders of the United States, Britain and France — the countries that launched the attack — "criminals."
The allies' operation was intended to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for an apparent chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again.
NATO representatives are planning a special session to hear from U.S., British and French officials about their military strike against Syria.
The alliance briefing is expected later Saturday, and NATO's secretary-general has expressed strong support for the coordinated military action aimed at the Syrian governor's chemical weapons program.
Jens Stoltenberg says the missile strikes will erode the Syrian government's "ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons."
The leader of Britain's largest opposition party is suggesting Prime Minister Theresa May could face a backlash in Parliament for her decision to join the United States and France in launching airstrikes against Syria.
The Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn says the allies' bombing is "legally questionable" and risks further escalating "an already devastating conflict."
Corbyn says "May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump."
The prime minister will appear before the House of Commons on Monday to explain her decision on joining the airstrikes
Corbyn says the strikes will make assigning blame for the use of chemical weapons in Syria "less, not more likely." He says Britain should be leading the response and "not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm's way."
China said Saturday it was "opposed to the use of force" following US-led air strikes against Syria and called for a "return to the framework of international law". "We consistently oppose the use of force in international relations, and advocate respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement on its website.
Syrian state TV has broadcast images of the destruction at a scientific research center near the capital of Damascus that was targeted in airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain.
Pentagon officials say the attacks targeted the heart of Syrian President Bashar Assad's (bah-SHAR' AH'-sahds) programs to develop and produce chemical weapons.
The Syrian military says more than one 100 missiles were fired against a military base in Syria's central Homs province and the research center in Barzeh, near Damascus.
The images shown on Al-Ikhbariya TV are the first of one of the targets. Seen in the footage are piles of rubble outside a destroyed building and a burned vehicle.
The Syrian military says the attack on the center destroyed an educational center and labs.
France's foreign minister is threatening further missile strikes against Syria if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons again.
France joined the United States and Britain in a joint operation that has destroyed what Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says is a "good part" of the Syrian government's chemical weapons arsenal.
He says France has "no doubt" that the Syrian government was behind a suspected chemical attacks last weekend. Syria denies responsibility.
Le Drian tells BFM television that the goal for the allied mission "was attained" but that if France's "red line is crossed again" there could be another attack.
Turkey on Saturday welcomed Western strikes targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime as an "appropriate response" to a suspected chemical attack that left dozens dead. "We welcome this operation which has eased humanity's conscience in the face of the attack in Douma, largely suspected to have been carried out by the regime," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says the need to act quickly and protect what she calls "operational security" led her to decide to join the allied strikes in Syria without a prior vote in Parliament.
She says she'll make a statement in Parliament on Monday explaining her actions. A spirited debate is expected.
The United States, France and Britain have launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad (bah-SHAR' AH'-sahd) for an apparent chemical attack against civilians last week and to deter him from doing it again.
May has come under criticism from some British lawmakers for not bringing back Parliament into session before taking action against Syria.
The European Union Commission's president says those who rely on chemical warfare must be held to account by the world.
Jean-Claude Juncker says the suspected use of poison gas last week in the Syrian city of Douma was — as he puts it — a "heinous chemical weapons attack carried out by the Syrian regime."
Juncker says the world "has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible" for that kind of attack.
Germany's chancellor says the allied strikes in Syria were — in her words — a "necessary and appropriate" response to what the U.S. and its allies say was a recent chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma.
Angela Merkel (AHN'-geh-lah MEHR'-kuhl) says Berlin says the U.S., Britain and France "took responsibility in this way as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council."
Merkel says the strikes were needed "to maintain the effectiveness of the international rejection of chemical weapons use and to warn the Syrian regime against further violations."
Merkel had said earlier this week that Germany wouldn't join allied military action against Syrian government forces.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is citing reports she says indicate the Syrian government used a barrel bomb to deliver the chemicals used in an attack on Douma.
Barrel bombs are large containers that are packed with fuel, explosives and scraps of metal.
May says the accounts about the use of a barrel bomb suggest that a Syrian government helicopter was seen flying above Douma just before last weekend's attack.
She says "no other group" could have carried out that attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the overnight US-led missile attack on Syria and called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, the Kremlin said on Saturday.
Putin said the US actions in Syria made the humanitarian catastrophe worse and caused pain for civilians, as well has damaging international relations.
France's government says it has no samples of the chemical weapons it believes were used in Syria, but launched a military response based on open-source information and intelligence gathering.
France released its assessment Saturday of what happened in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7. It was the basis for France's involvement in a joint military operation launched Saturday with the U.S. and Britain to target Syrian chemical weapons facilities.
The assessment cites "the absence to date of chemical samples analyzed by our own laboratories." It says the government evaluated publicly available information from non-governmental organizations and other sources as well as unspecified French intelligence.
It concludes that there is "no plausible scenario other than that of an attack by Syrian armed forces." Syria denies responsibility and says it gave up its chemical arsenal.
The assessment notes eight chlorine attacks ahead of the "major attack" on Douma and 44 allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria over the past year.
A Syrian military statement says the U.S., Britain and France fired 110 missiles during a joint attack on targets in Damascus and outside.
Brig. Gen. Ali Mayhoub, who read the statement on Syrian TV, said "our air defenses effectively shot down most of them." He says one of the missiles hit the Scientific Research Center in Barzeh near Damascus, damaging a building. In Homs, one of the missiles was derailed injuring three people, he said.
Mayhoub says the attacks "will not deter" the Syrian military from its ongoing war to eradicate "armed terrorists" from Syrian territory.
Syria's Foreign Ministry earlier said the attack coincides with the arrival of a fact-finding mission from the international chemical weapons watchdog to inspect the site of the alleged attack in the town of Douma, and "aims to hinder its work."
The OPCW had said that its experts would be visiting Douma on Saturday.
Turkey on Saturday welcomed Western strikes targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime as an "appropriate reaction" in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack that left dozens dead.
"We welcome this operation that articulates the conscience of all humanity in the face of the Douma attack which has a strong suspicion of being carried out by the regime," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
France wants to start working "right now" on resuming the political process aimed at ending the conflict in Syria, the French foreign minister said Saturday, following air strikes by Western powers against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"A plan for ending the crisis must be found, with a political solution. We are ready to start working right now with all countries who want to participate," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a press conference.
France's defense minister says its joint military operation with the U.S. and Britain against Syria targeted three sites and that Russia was informed ahead of time.
Defense Minister Florence Parly told reporters Saturday that the French military sent fighter jets from multiple bases in France and used missile-equipped frigates in the Mediterranean in the operation. Rafale fighter jets could be seen on a video posted overnight by the French presidential palace on Twitter.
She said strikes targeted the "main research center" for the Syrian chemical weapons program and "two important production sites."
She added that "with our allies, we ensured that the Russians were warned ahead of time." Syria's ally Russia has denounced the western military action.
Hundreds of Syrians are demonstrating in a landmark square of the Syrian capital, waving victory signs and honking their car horns in a show of defiance.
The demonstrations broke out early Saturday following a wave of U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians. The Syrian government has denied the accusations.
In Damascus, the president's seat of power, hundreds of residents gathered in Omayyad Square, many waving Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags. Some clapped their hands and danced, others drove in convoys, honking their horns.
"We are your men, Bashar," they shouted.
State TV broadcast live from the square where a large crowd of civilians mixed with men in uniforms, including an actor, lawmakers and other figures.
"Good morning steadfastness," one broadcaster said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for restraint and for countries to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation in Syria after the United States, France and Britain carried out strikes.
Guterres delayed a planned trip to Saudi Arabia to deal with the aftermath of the military action.
"I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people," Guterres said in a statement.
Syrian state-run TV says three civilians have been wounded in the U.S.-led missile attack on a military base in Homs.
It says the attack was aborted by derailing the incoming missile but adds nonetheless that three people were wounded.
It says another attack with "a number of missiles" targeting a scientific research center destroyed a building and caused other material damage but no human losses. The network says the building in the research center included an educational center and labs.
The spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry is denouncing the United States for launching airstrikes on Syria. She says the attacks hit a long-troubled country "that for many years has been trying to survive terrorist aggression."
In a statement Saturday on Facebook, Maria Zakharova is also taking Western media reports to task.
Zakharova says: "The White House stated that its assuredness of the chemical attack from Damascus was based on 'mass media, reports of symptoms, video, photos as well as credible information.' After this statement the American and other Western mass media should understand their responsibility in what is happening."
Sakharova is comparing the situation to the start of the Iraq War in 2003 based on claims Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.
Syrian TV is reporting that the attack on Syria targeted a scientific research center in Barzeh, near Damascus.
The report says Syria's air defenses confronted the missiles near Homs, and says the airstrikes also targeted an army depot there.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced the airstrikes in retaliation for Syrian President Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons.
Syrian air defenses responded to the joint strikes by the United States, France and Britain
A highly placed Russian politician is likening President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler after the launch of airstrikes against Syria, and says he regards the action as a move against Russia.
Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma's defense committee, says Trump "can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time — because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union."
That's according to state news agency RIA-Novosti. The Nazi forces' opening attack against the USSR in 1941 was launched around 4 a.m.
The British defense ministry says "initial indications" show that the airstrikes against Syria produced a "successful attack" on a Syrian military facility.
The U.K., U.S. and France launched the attacks near Damascus early Saturday. The U.K. ministry says in a statement that while the effectiveness of the strike is still being analyzed, "initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack."
British Prime Minister Theresa May is describing the attack as neither "about intervening in a civil war" nor "about regime change," but a limited and targeted strike that "does not further escalate tensions in the region" and does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.
May says, "We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.
Defense Secretary James Mattis says the U.S. and its allies have taken "decisive action" against Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure.
Mattis briefed reporters at the Pentagon Friday an hour after President Donald Trump announced the strike.
Mattis says the United States, along with France and the United Kingdom, struck because Syrian President Bashar Assad "did not get the message" when the U.S. launched airstrikes after a chemical attack in 2017.
The defense secretary says Friday's strikes have "sent a clear message" to Assad and his "murderous lieutenants."
Explosions are being heard to the east, west and south of Damascus as the U.S., U.K. and France conduct airstrikes in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government on its own people.
Witnesses saw blasts surrounding much of the Syrian capital and a huge fire could be seen from a distance to the east. An AP reporter in Damascus says the attacks turned the sky orange. Syrian television reported that a scientific research center had been hit.
Syrian media reported that Syrian defenses hit 13 rockets south of Damascus. After the attack ceased and the early morning skies went dark once more, vehicles with loudspeakers roamed the streets of Damascus blaring nationalist songs.
French President Emmanuel Macron says his nation, the United States and Britain have launched a military operation against the Syrian government's "clandestine chemical arsenal."
Macron says in a statement Saturday that France's "red line has been crossed" after a suspected chemical attack last week in the Syrian town of Douma.
He says there is "no doubt" that the Syrian government is responsible. President Bashar Assad's government denies responsibility.
Macron says the operation is limited to Syria's abilities to produce chemical weapons. He is not giving details about what equipment is involved in the operation or what sites it is targeting.
Syria's capital has been rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons.
Associated Press reporters in Damascus saw smoke rising from east Damascus early Saturday morning local time. Syrian state TV says the attack has begun on the capital, though it wasn't immediately clear what was targeted.
US President Donald Trump says the United States has "launched precision strikes" on targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons program.
Trump spoke from the White House Friday night. He says a "combined operation" with France and the United Kingdom is underway.
Trump says that last Saturday, Syrian President Bashar Assad deployed chemical weapons in what was a "significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime."
(With inputs from AP and AFP)