WARN­ING SHOTS

Sunday News - - WORLD -

DA­M­AS­CUS Loud ex­plo­sions rocked Syria’s cap­i­tal, Da­m­as­cus, and filled the sky with heavy smoke after United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced air strikes in re­tal­i­a­tion for the coun­try’s use of chem­i­cal weapons.

Syr­ian air de­fences re­sponded to the joint strikes yes­ter­day by the US, Bri­tain and France. Smoke rose from east Da­m­as­cus, and a huge fire could be seen there.

Syr­ian television said the early-morn­ing at­tacks tar­geted a sci­en­tific re­search cen­tre in Barzeh, near Da­m­as­cus, and an army de­pot near Homs.

Syr­ian me­dia re­ported that air de­fences had hit 13 in­com­ing rock­ets south of Da­m­as­cus. After the at­tacks ceased, ve­hi­cles with loud­speak­ers roamed the streets of the city blar­ing na­tion­al­ist songs.

‘‘Good souls will not be hu­mil­i­ated,’’ Syria’s pres­i­dency tweeted after the air strikes be­gan.

Syr­ian state TV called the at­tacks a ‘‘bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law and shows con­tempt for in­ter­na­tional le­git­i­macy’’.

Trump an­nounced yes­ter­day that the three al­lies had launched the strikes to pun­ish Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad for the al­leged use of chem­i­cal weapons in an at­tack on Douma, near Da­m­as­cus, last week­end, and to pre­vent him from do­ing it again.

Trump said Wash­ing­ton was pre­pared to ‘‘sus­tain’’ the pres­sure on As­sad un­til he ended what the pres­i­dent called a crim­i­nal pat­tern of killing his own peo­ple with in­ter­na­tion­ally banned chem­i­cal weapons. It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether he meant the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion would ex­tend be­yond the ini­tial mis­sile strikes.

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly de­nied any use of banned weapons.

US De­fence Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis said there were no re­ports of US losses dur­ing the ini­tial air strikes. ‘‘Right now, this is a one­time shot,’’ he said, but did not rule out fur­ther at­tacks.

Mat­tis said the strikes were launched against sev­eral sites that had helped As­sad’s abil­ity to cre­ate chem­i­cal weapons.

Bri­tain’s De­fence Min­istry said that while the ef­fec­tive­ness of the at­tacks was still be­ing an­a­lysed, ‘‘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 de­scribed 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 did ev­ery­thing poss- ible to pre­vent civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.

‘‘We would have pre­ferred an al­ter­na­tive path. But on this oc­ca­sion, there is none,’’ May said.

The de­ci­sion to at­tack, after days of de­lib­er­a­tions, marked Trump’s sec­ond or­der to at­tack Syria. He au­tho­rised a bar­rage of Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles to hit a sin­gle Syr­ian air­field in April 2017 in re­tal­i­a­tion for As­sad’s use of sarin gas against civil­ians.

Trump chas­tised Syria’s two main al­lies, Rus­sia and Iran, for their roles in sup­port­ing ‘‘mur­der­ous dic­ta­tors’’, and noted that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin had guar­an­teed a 2013 in­ter­na­tional agree­ment for As­sad to get rid of all of his chem­i­cal weapons. He called on Moscow to change course and join the West in seek­ing a more re­spon­si­ble regime in Da­m­as­cus.

Rus­sia’s US em­bassy re­leased a state­ment warn­ing that the air strikes would ‘‘not be left with­out con­se­quences’’. It said that ‘‘all re­spon­si­bil­ity’’ rested with Wash­ing­ton, London and Paris.

The al­lied op­er­a­tion comes a year after the US mis­sile strike that Trump said was meant to de­ter As­sad from fur­ther use of chem­i­cal weapons. Since that did not work, a more in­tense at­tack would aim to de­grade his abil­ity to carry out fur­ther such at­tacks, and would try to do this by hit­ting Syr­ian air­craft, mil­i­tary de­pots and chem­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, among other sites.

The one-off mis­sile strike in April 2017 tar­geted the air­field from which the Syr­ian air­craft had launched their gas at­tack. But the dam­age was lim­ited, and a de­fi­ant As­sad re­turned to episodic use of chlo­rine and per­haps other chem­i­cals. AP

Yes­ter­day’s strikes ap­pear to sig­nal Trump’s will­ing­ness to draw the US more deeply into the Syr­ian con­flict. The par­tic­i­pa­tion of Bri­tish and French forces en­ables Trump to as­sert a wider in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ment against the use of chem­i­cal weapons, but the mul­ti­pronged at­tack car­ries the risk of Rus­sian re­tal­i­a­tion.

In a na­tion­wide ad­dress, Trump stressed that he had no in­ter­est in a long­time fight with Syria.

‘‘Amer­ica does not seek an in­def­i­nite pres­ence in Syria un­der no cir­cum­stances,’’ he said. ‘‘As other na­tions step up their con­tri­bu­tions, we look for­ward to the day when we can bring our war­riors home.’’

The US has about 2000 troops in eastern Syria as ad­vis­ers to a makeshift group of anti-Is­lamic State fight­ers known as the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces. A USled coali­tion has been con­duct­ing air strikes in Syria since Septem­ber 2014 as part of a largely suc­cess­ful ef­fort to break the Isis grip on both Syria and Iraq. AP

A po­lice­man tus­sles with a pro­tester near Down­ing Street in London dur­ing a demon­stra­tion yes­ter­day or­gan­ised by the Stop the War Coali­tion against mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion or bomb­ing by Western al­lies in Syria. The US, Bri­tain and France have launched air strikes in re­tal­i­a­tion for Syria’s use of chem­i­cal weapons against civil­ians.

Mis­sile fire lights up the night sky dur­ing the joint at­tack tar­get­ing sev­eral ar­eas of Syria’s cap­i­tal, Da­m­as­cus.

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