Trump hails: Mission accomplished
ALLIES BRACED FOR RUSSIA’S REVENGE AFTER BLITZ ON SYRIA
ATTACK ON SYRIA SPECIAL
DONALD TRUMP yesterday described the attacks on chemical weapons sites in Syria by the US, UK and France as ‘mission accomplished’.
However, his triumphant tone was tempered by a poll yesterday which showed citizens of his key ally, the UK, believe the raids were wrong – by almost two to one.
President Trump’s declaration followed the US-led coalition’s launch of 105 cruise missiles at three chemical weapons factories and storage depots across Syria. The comments echoed George W. Bush’s premature declaration of victory over Iraq in 2003.
The Pentagon said all of its targets had been hit, despite Syria and its key ally Russia claiming that most of the missiles had been shot down by air defences, while the rest only hit empty sites.
The air strikes were launched a week to the day after an estimated 75 people were killed and a further 500 injured, including young children, in the suspected chemical weapons attack on Douma, a suburb of the capital Damascus.
Western intelligence agencies gathered evidence that convinced political leaders that Assad was to blame, including observations of an army helicopter over the city, while aid workers told how chlorine could be smelled in the air and victims were found with foam in their mouth and burning eyes.
The White House said last night that in addition to chlorine, the nerve agent sarin was also used in Douma. It said doctors and aid organisations on the ground reported the ‘strong smell of chlorine and described symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin’.
A senior administration official said the US had ‘significant information that points to sarin use’.
President Trump gave the first warning of the attack on Wednesday when he tweeted that Russia should ‘get ready’ because ‘nice and new and smart’ missiles would be coming. He also told Vladimir Putin he should not be ‘partners with a Gas Killing Animal.’
At some time after 1am Irish time yesterday, four GR4 Tornado aircraft loaded with the latest military hardware took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
Pictures released last night by the UK’s Ministry of Defence showed the tense final preparations at Akrotiri before the operation was finally launched.
Each Tornado was flown by a twoman crew drawn from the RAF’s 31 Squadron, nicknamed the Gold Stars. These personnel form part of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) based at Akrotiri. Crews have been conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since 2015.
Shortly after 2am yesterday the pilots and weapons systems officers aboard the Tornados released their payloads of Storm Shadow, as President Trump announced that military operations against Syria had begun.
In order to avoid attack from Russian-made rocket systems operated by Syria, the RAF jets remained in
All of the targets had been hit
international airspace throughout the operation. The missiles have a range of 155 miles and travelled 100 miles. It is understood that all eight British missiles found their targets and caused significant destruction.
The same storage facility was also targeted by nine US Tomahawk missiles fired from a US Navy warship in the Red Sea, three French naval cruise missiles and two Scalp cruise missiles fired from Rafale fighter jets.
The US also launched a huge attack on a chemical weapons laboratory in Damascus thought by intelligence sources to have been involved in the production of sarin and other deadly nerve agents used by the Assad regime.
At around 2am, 57 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 19 high explosive bombs were dropped on the Barzeh Research and Development facility with devastating results.
In a detailed briefing, the US military revealed 105 missiles obliterated three Syrian regime chemical weapons sites in a ‘precise, overwhelming and effective’ attack.
Barzeh was the primary target, razed to the ground by 57 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 19 JASSM ‘smart bombs’ – used in combat for the first time. The second target was Him Shinshar, flattened by the eight Storm Shadow missiles from RAF Tornados, which were escorted by Typhoon fighter jets. It was also hit by nine US missiles and five French missiles.
The third target was a nearby chemical weapons bunker, pounded with seven Scalp missiles.
Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr, staff director of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said all missiles fired by Allied forces hit their targets shortly after 4am local time, and denied claims made by Russia and Syria that dozens were shot out of the sky by Soviet-era air defence missiles.
He added: ‘None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defences and we have no indication that Russian air defence systems were deployed.’
He said: ‘Over 40 surface-to-air missiles were deployed by the Syrian regime. Most of these launches were conducted after the last impact of our strike was over. We assess that the defensive efforts of Syria were largely ineffective.’
Syrian TV broadcast images of the ruins of the scientific research centre that was reduced to rubble, but the regime claimed the attack had little impact.
Assad loyalists took to the streets waving flags and mocking Mr Trump, while a Twitter account run by Assad’s office posted a video of him walking calmly through the presidential palace.
But arguments still raged over the legitimacy of the strikes as well as the truth behind the deaths in rebel-controlled Douma.
At a meeting of the UN Security Council last night called at Russia’s request, Mr Putin’s envoy called the air strikes an ‘act of aggression’, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged restraint to ‘avoid escalation’.
Research centre was reduced to rubble