US, allies bomb Syria
Western powers said yesterday their missile attacks struck at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons program, but the restrained assault appeared unlikely to shift the course of the seven-year-old civil war.
The US, France and Britain launched 105 missiles overnight in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a week ago. They targeted what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities, including a research and development operation in Damascus’ Barzeh district and two installations near Homs.
The bombing was the biggest intervention by Western countries against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his superpower ally Russia, but the three countries said the strikes were limited to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.
The air attack, denounced by Damascus and its allies as an illegal act of aggression, was unlikely to alter the course of a multi-sided war in which at least half a million people have been killed.
“We believe that by hitting Barzeh in particular we’ve attacked the heart of the Syrian chemicals weapon program,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said at the Pentagon.
US President Donald Trump called the operation a success on Twitter and proclaimed: “Mission accomplished.”
However, McKenzie acknowledged elements of Syria’s chemical weapons program remain and he could not guarantee that Syria would be unable to conduct a chemical attack in the future.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier yesterday the strikes were “unacceptable and lawless”.
Syria released video of the wreckage of a bombed-out research lab, but also of Assad arriving at work as usual, with the caption “Morning of resilience”.
Ten hours after the missiles hit, smoke was still rising from the remains of five destroyed buildings of the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, where a Syrian employee said medical components were developed.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Russia had promised to respond to any attack on its ally, but the Pentagon said no Russian air defence systems were used. Syria fired 40 unguided surface-to-air missiles - but only after the Western strikes had ended, the Pentagon said.