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US orders precision strikes against Syria following chemical attack

Last Updated Apr 13, 2018 at 10:57 pm PDT

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Friday, April 13, 2018, in Washington, about the United States' military response to Syria's chemical weapon attack on April 7. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The US has launched targeted strikes against Syria in retaliation of a chemical weapons attack in that country last week

The precision strikes are part of a joint operation with France and the UK

WASHINGTON (NEWS 1130) – President Donald Trump has ordered targeted attacks on Syria.

“A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian Dictator Bashar Al Assad,” Trump said at the White House Friday night.

The joint operation with France and the UK is now underway, he says. The size and scope of this military action is unknown.

This move comes after the most recent reported chemical attack in Syria on Douma — a city north east of Damascus — last Saturday.

“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons-use by that very terrible regime,” Trump says.

He also had a message for Assad’s allies. “To Iran and to Russia I ask: what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children.”

Trump says he has asked US partners “to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-ISIS effort.”

He says increased engagement from countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt can ensure Iran does not profit from the defeat of the Islamic State group.

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

Trump also spoke of attacks dating back to last year, when Trump says Assad launched an attack “against his own innocent people.”

“The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 per cent of the Syrian Air Force.”

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement that France’s “red line [had] been crossed” after last week’s chemical attack.

He says there is “no doubt” that the Syrian government is responsible, despite Assad’s government denying that allegation.

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.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says there is no “practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.”

In a statement, she says this isn’t about intervening in a civil war. “It is not about regime change. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region, and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.”

Pentagon on precision strikes

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says military strikes in Syria are “directed at the Syrian regime” and they have “gone to great lengths to avoid civilians and foreign casualties.”

Mattis spoke Friday night after Trump announced military strikes on Syria had been launched to punish Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians and to deter him from doing it again.

“As our commander in chief, the president has the authority under Article 2 of the Constitution to use military force overseas to defend important, United States national interests. The United States has vital national interests in averting a worsening catastrophe in Syria and specifically deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.”

He says this wave of airstrikes is now over, and is asking that “responsible nations” join in condemning the Assad regime.

Mattis adds the US has gone to “great lengths” to avoid civilian and foreign casualties.

Explosions lit up the skies with anti-aircraft fire, over Damascus, the Syrian capital, as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus, Syria, early Saturday, April 14, 2018. 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. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

General Joseph Dunford says the targets struck — and destroyed — were specifically linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program. “We also selected targets that would minimize the risk to innocent civilians.”

The three targets include a scientific research centre in the greater Damascus area. “This military facility was a Syrian centre for the research, development, production, and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology.”

The second target, he says, was a chemical weapons storage facility near the city of Homs. A third target is said to have also been a storage facility as well as a command post in a similar area.

Dunford says important infrastructure was destroyed, affecting Syria’s chemical weapons program. “They will lose years of research and development data, specialized equipment, and expensive chemical weapons precursors.”

Mattis says there are no reports of losses as of yet, but adds a full brief will be provided on Saturday.

Canada supports decision to take action: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has issued a statement in response to the joint airstrikes by the US, UK and France, lending his support.

“Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week’s attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria,” he says.

Trudeau adds Canada will continue to work to investigate the use of chemical weapons, saying “those responsible must be brought to justice.”

Russia likens Trump to Hitler

A highly placed Russian politician is likening 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.