US, UK and France take part in strikes on targets associated with chemical weapons in the wake of gas attack on Douma
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has said this morning’s missile strikes by the US, UK and France will only increase his country’s resolve to fight terrorism during a phone conversation with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
The Syrian leader accused western nations of supporting terrorism, and the Iranian president reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Syrian regime, according to the Syrian presidency.
رئاسة الجمهورية العربية السورية pic.twitter.com/hhIZT6cOTe
Here’s the full text of Theresa May’s speech on airstrikes in Syria:
Labour and Conservative leaders in Scotland have reacted to the airstrikes.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said:
Last night’s airstrikes were targeted at the Syrian regime’s chemical weapon facilities and in direct response to the chemical attack on Syria’s civilian population in Douma last week.
While carried out by UK, US and French military personnel, the strikes have the express support of the EU and Nato, as well as the governments of Canada, Australia and Germany, among others.
Just two days ago Theresa May met with her cabinet to discuss Syria – today we wake to the news that she has been led by Donald Trump into airstrikes, dangerously escalating an already devastating conflict.
Despite having no majority, there has been no consultation with parliament on any military action, and no agreement with the UN.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will continue its mission in Douma following reports of a chemical weapons attack, it has said.
In a statement, the organisation said:
The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will continue its deployment to the Syrian Arab Republic to establish facts around the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma.
The OPCW has been working in close collaboration with the United Nations department of safety and security to assess the situation and ensure the safety of the team.
Syrian state TV shows people walking around a hole in the ground in a suburb of Homs said to be caused by the airstrikes carried out against Syria by the US, UK and France. Video here:
Speaking in Yorkshire, Jeremy Corbyn said he would support calls for a new UN resolution and “bring Russia and US together along with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, all the neighbouring states”.
This civil war is ghastly. It’s killed hundreds of thousands. It’s driven millions into refuge in other countries and the chemical weapons are obviously appalling and disgusting and completely illegal within international war.
The consequences of any country taking unilateral action that has no legal basis are that it’s an encouragement for others to do exactly the same and reduces our ability to complain when others do that.
Surely the United Nations exists for a purpose. If the security council was unable to come to an agreement this week, as it obviously wasn’t because the US and Russia couldn’t agree on anything, then surely the role of another country, us for example, is to be an honest broker and try and bring them together. This war cannot go on.
She (May) has used the argument that by bombing those sites it would prevent any other chemical weapons being used. I would just simply say to her the weapons inspectors were on their way to her to verify it.
In 2013, Lavrov (Sergei, Russian foreign minister) and Kerry (John, former secretary of state) on behalf of Russia and US, reached an agreement, and did destroy a large amount of chemical weapons. There is precedent that this process can work.
You could only do it on the basis of self defence if there was a direct threat to us and there wasn’t.
The Russian military has claimed that the Syrian air defences, whose most modern weapon is a three-decades-old Russian-supplied anti-aircraft system, shot down 71 of 103 missiles fired by the US and its allies, the UK and France, Peter Beaumont and Andrew Roth write.
As further details began to emerge about the sites target by the US-led strikes, Col Gen Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military said the strikes had not caused any casualties and that Syrian military facilities targeted suffered only minor damage.
The Stop the War Coalition has condemned the airstrikes. A statement released by the group said:
We strongly condemn the missile attacks on Syria last night which will have only brought the Syrians more misery and destruction. They will have done nothing to end the war or alleviate their suffering. In sanctioning killing at the behest of Donald Trump, Theresa May deliberately avoided consulting parliament and risked dramatically widening the war.
The overwhelming majority of people in this country oppose this action just as they have opposed the series of wars of the last seventeen years. Following protests around the country yesterday the Stop the War Coalition is calling for a further protest in Parliament Square this Monday 16 April the day parliament reconvenes.
Theresa May has refused to rule out further action against targets in Syria if Britain sees further evidence of chemical weapons attacks, but faced down calls for an immediate vote in parliament on the British airstrikes overnight, writes Jessica Elgot.
In Downing Street after military action was authorised in a joint offensive by the UK, US and France, the prime minister said the airstrikes would “significantly degrade the Syrian regime’s ability to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons”.
The prime minister said the allies had hit a chemical weapons storage and production facility, a key chemical weapons research centre and a military bunker involved in chemical weapons attacks.
However, pressed on whether she would authorise further strikes if chemical weapons stockpiles had survived, May said the Syrian regime should not doubt Britain’s resolve to prevent the normalisation of chemical weapons.
In her statement to journalists on Saturday, the UK prime minister, Theresa May, gave examples of “evidence” that led UK authorities to conclude the Assad regime was behind the chemical weapons attack in Douma.
Her comments add to information supplied by both the Pentagon in the US and an assessment released by France of what happened in Douma.
I cannot tell you everything. But let me give an example of some of the evidence that leads us to this conclusion. Open source accounts allege that a barrel bomb was used to deliver the chemicals.
Multiple open source reports claim that a regime helicopter was observed above the city of Douma on the evening of 7 April. The opposition does not operate helicopters or use barrel bombs.
Theresa May said the airstrikes against Syria were “right and legal” – watch the video here.
Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party, has said air strikes will do “nothing to increase chances of peace”.
Air strikes on #Syria have done nothing to increase chances of peace so far & no evidence they’ll do so now. We need consistent foreign policy – stronger sanctions, more peace building, end arms sales to Saudi Arabia etc – and it needs to be set by parliament not US President https://t.co/fW79zwjBPx
The North Atlantic Council (NAC) – the principal political decision-making body of Nato – is to hold a meeting this afternoon to discuss the airstrikes.
A Nato official: “There will be a meeting of the North Atlantic Council this afternoon. France, the United Kingdom and the United States will brief Allies on actions taken in Syria.”
Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary general, has said he supports the actions taken by US, UK and France.
I support the actions taken by the United States, the United Kingdom and France against the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities and capabilities.
This will reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons.
France on Saturday released its assessment of what happened in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, saying it had “a high level of confidence” and enough proof to say the Syrian regime was behind chemical attacks.
A French official said the assessment that had been released was based on declassified information and intelligence-gathering.
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Theresa May should have sought Parliamentary approval for action.
Riding the coattails of an erratic US President is no substitute for a mandate from the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister could and should have recalled Parliament this week and sought the approval of MPs before proceeding.
Guardian associate editor has written a comment piece on the Syrian airstrikes. He writes
Enough to show they are serious. Not enough for it to get out of control. That, in essence, seems to be the initial lesson of the missile attacks launched on Syria this morning by the US, France and Britain.
French defence ministry sources said France fired 12 missiles in coordinated air and sea strikes.
First, cruise missiles were fired from frigates in the Mediterranean, and then, 20 minutes later missiles were fired from several French fighter jets which had taken off from airbases in France and were now back at base.
The Democratic Unionist Party backed May’s decision.
Deputy leader and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds MP said: “First and foremost we salute the courage of our brave servicemen and women. They have carried out their duty with typical discipline and valour.
Former UK prime minister, David Cameron, has declared his support for the airstrikes in Syria.
I firmly support the military action taken in Syria. The barbaric & intolerable use of chemical weapons should never go unchecked. As we have seen in the past, inaction has its consequences – so PM right to join forces with our allies to take targeted & appropriate action. 1/2
My thoughts are with our brave servicemen & women who have been called to duty. Let the message go out loud & clear: the use of chemical weapons is never acceptable. 2/2
The Spanish foreign ministry described the strikes as a “legitimate and proportional” response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against the civilian population.
“A chemical weapons attack is a crime against humanity,” it said. “Those responsible for this and previous attacks must be brought to justice. We regret the Security Council’s paralysis on this issue. We always prefer concerted international action to unilateral action. But when the latter is taken, it must be proportional, as it has been on this occasion.”
Israel has said the strikes were an “important signal” to Iran, Syria and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
“The use of chemical weapons crosses a red line that humanity can no longer tolerate,” Yoav Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Twitter.
As May was speaking, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has issued a statement in which he says the use of chemical weapons is “unacceptable in any circumstances”.
Last night, France, the United Kingdom and the United States responded in a coordinated military action to the heinous chemical weapons attack carried out by the Syrian regime against civilians in Douma on 7 April.
As the European Commission has stated, the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable in any circumstances and must be condemned in the strongest terms. The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons.
The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable in any circumstances and must be condemned in the strongest terms. The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons. #Syria pic.twitter.com/beF6IEirEP
Pressed on the role of Parliament and future votes on further military action, May said she thought the action was “the right thing to do” and was about “degradation of chemical weapons”.
Asked if the current scenario shows the vote in 2013 to take no action against Syria was a mistake, she said: “I voted to take action in 2013. When the Government put that to Parliament we felt it was the right thing to do.”
Asked why UK did not wait “one or two days” for formal proof from chemical weapons investigators, May said the recent attack in Douma was not the only one that has taken place. The reason for UK action was not just the events in Douma but also earlier attacks.
“All the indications were this was a chemical weapons attack at the hands of the Syrian regime,” she said.
Given the failure of all diplomatic efforts so far, what is the plan following these strikes?
May says diplomatic efforts so far have not had “the impact we wish it would have”. “We’ve now taken military action and alongside that we will renew diplomatic efforts as well,” she adds.
Asked by the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot if she is concerned that she may not have the support of the British people, May replied:
“My message to people is this is about the use of chemical weapons.
Following her comments related to the attack in Salisbury, May was asked if the airstrikes were just about Assad or a warning to Russia as well. She said:
“The action taken last night was focused on degrading and deterring the operational capability and wilingness of the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons.”
Asked why she did not seek prior approval or debate?
“I believe this action was necessary, it was the right thing for us to do. We’ve been working with our allies and partners to make a full assessment of what happened on the ground, then to consider what action was necessary. Then to do that in a timely fashion.
May said the attacks were “right and legal”.
She said: “The lesson of history is when the global rules and standard that keep us safe come under threat we must take a stand and defend them. That’s what we’ve always done and will continue to do.”
May says the military action would alleviate further suffering.
“It was not about regime change,” May says. “It was a limited, targeted, effective strike with clear boundaries.”
May says the UK Government has attempted to approach Syria through diplomatic channels but to no avail.
“The UK Government has been working intensively with international partners to build evidence picture”, she says.
May says the fact of the chemical weapon attack in Douma “should surprise no one”.
We know the Syrian regime has an abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people.
No other group could have carried out this attack. Daesh does not have a presence in Douma.
Theresa May is making a statement at Downing Street on the US-led airstrikes in Syria.
She said full assessments of the UK airstrike are taking place but Government is “confident of its success”.
Here’s more from our Moscow correspondent, Andrew Roth, on Putin’s statement.
Vladimir Putin said that the US-led strike would “worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria”.
The Candian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has offered his support to the actions taken by US, UK and France. In a statement he said:
Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week’s attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria.
Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people.
At the Elysée palace, where diplomatic and military staff had been awake all night, the focus was on stressing that French president Emmanuel Macron’s clearly stated “red-line” on chemical weapons use in Syria had been overstepped, as well as international treaties on chemical weapons, and that the French action was legal, “proportional and targeted”.
Sources at the Elysée emphasised Macron’s diplomatic efforts yesterday — describing his phone conversation with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, as key.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, has responding to the Syria airstrikes, calling them “legally questionable”:
Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace. This legally questionable action risks escalating further, as US defence secretary James Mattis has admitted, an already devastating conflict and therefore makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less, not more likely.
Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in a statement called the US-led airstrikes against Syria an “act of aggression.”
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a staunch ally of Bashar al-Assad, condemned Saturday’s US-led airstrikes on Syria, describing the leaders of the three countries involved in the attack as criminals.
“I clearly declare that the US president, the French president and the UK prime minister are criminals and have committed a crime,” he said on Saturday, state agencies reported.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon says UK foreign policy should be set by parliament and not Donald Trump following the missile strikes launched by the US, UK and France against Syria.
She said the suspected use of chemical weapons in Douma last week was “sickening” but warned that the latest action risked “dangerous escalation”.
Air strikes have not resolved situation in Syria so far – nothing I’ve heard persuades me they will do so now. An international strategy for peace must be pursued – not a course that risks dangerous escalation. UK foreign policy should be set by Parliament, not US President.
Asked how the prime minister would address MPs’ concerns when she returns to Parliament on Monday, Williamson said:
He said: “The speed in which we’re acting is essential. We’ve been co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations.”
Asked if this was a “one-time shot”, as US defence secretary, James Mattis, has said, Williamson replied:
“We’ve been working to make sure the targeting and the strikes have an enormous effect. It’s our belief the action we’ve taken has degraded their ability to act in the future.”
Williamson said the decision to launch airstrikes was discussed at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
“We all saw the images of the suffering inflicted on innocent men women and children,” he said.
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson is speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Over in Cyprus, British base officials are saying they will not be commenting on the overnight strikes in which four Royal Air Force Tornados GR4s were involved.
Speaking shortly after four RAF tornados launched Storm Shadow missiles at a Syrian chemical weapons base 15 miles west of Homs, a British base spokesman in Cyprus said there would be no further information on the attack from officials on the island.
I’m handing over now to my colleague Jamie Grierson in London.
The Guardian’s Middle East reporter Kareem Shaheen is reporting on regional reaction to the air strikes.
More international reaction coming in, with Turkey saying it welcomed the attacks this morning as an appropriate measure for the use of chemical weapons.
Bashar al-Assad arrives at work on a morning of steadfastness.
رئاسة الجمهورية العربية السورية pic.twitter.com/hhIZT6cOTe
The Guardian’s Middle East reporter Kareem Shaheen on a statement issued by the Syrian military command:
The statement published by the Syrian state news agency says the “tripartite aggression” began at 3:55am Damascus time and included approximately 110 missiles fired at targets inside Syria.
It said that Syrian air defence responded and brought down the majority of the missiles, but some hit a research facility in Barzeh, which it said contained scientific labs and an educational centre, but that the US claims was a chemical weapons research facility.
The Associated Press is reporting protests on the streets of Damascus this morning in a show of defiance against the US:
Hundreds of Syrians gathered at landmark squares in the Syrian capital Saturday, honking their car horns, flashing victory signs and waving Syrian flags in scenes of defiance that followed unprecedented joint airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain.
“Good souls will not be humiliated,” Syria’s presidency tweeted after the airstrikes began.
Russia’s defence ministry has issued a statement saying “more than 100 cruise missiles and air-to-land missiles were fired by the US, Britain, and France from the sea and air at Syrian military and civilian targets”.
The statement said “a significant number” of missiles were shot down by Syrian air defences, built by the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago. No Russian air defences based in Syria were hit in the strikes, the ministry said.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has said his government (another Five Eyes member) supports the attacks on Syrian military targets.
Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people.
We will continue to work with our international partners to further investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those responsible must be brought to justice.
Welcome the news of UK military strikes against major chemical weapons facilities in Syria alongside our US and French allies. The world is united in its disgust for any use of chemical weapons, but especially against civilians
Julian Borger is reporting from Washington that the US relied on a “large body” of evidence pointing towards the Assad regime’s responsibility for the chemical weapons attack on Douma.
The evidence includes eyewitness accounts of helicopters dropping barrel bombs on the city, and “reliable intelligence’ that the attacks were co-ordinated by Syrian military officials.
Jenny Jones, Greens peer
This comment by PM is nonsense. She cannot possible be confident that tensions won’t escalate! Region is complex, many players, with shifting alliances. All happening over the bodies of innocent Syrians. https://t.co/Cj9bJd7vbC
Iran has warned of “regional consequences” following air strikes in Syria by a coalition of the United States, Britain, and France.
“The United States and its allies have no proof and, without even waiting for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to take a position, have carried out this military attack,” Iran’s foreign ministry in a statement.
The Guardian’s Paris correspondent Angelique Chrisafis:
French foreign minister Le Drian says just now:
The red line set out by Macron last year was crossed.
Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons was “not acceptable”
#Syria French foreign minister Le Drian says the military response was “legitimate”, that it targeted Syrian regime’s chemical capabilities, was “proportional and targeted” to prevent “further carnage”
#Syria French defence minister Parly says French naval and air power was used, beginning at 3am French time. Cruise missiles from naval frigate in the Mediterranean as well as French fighter jets that left several French airbases
Protestors on the streets of Damascus wave Russian and Syrian flags, the morning after US-led airstrikes on the capital.
Russia’s foreign ministry Maria Zakharova has condemned the US over its strikes on Syria. She said the attacks hit a long-troubled country “that for many years has been trying to survive terrorist aggression”.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Saturday, Zakharova also criticised the Western media for its coverage, which it says informed the White House for its attacks.
Syrian state-run TV is reporting that three civilians have been wounded in the US-led missile attack on a military base in Homs.
Reports say the attack was largely thwarted by the derailing of incoming missiles but add that nonetheless, three people were wounded.
Theresa May has spoken from No. 10 on the air strikes in Syria, drawing a direct link between the strikes and the alleged Russian nerve agent attacks in Salisbury last month.
We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised: within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path, but on this occasion there is none.
The Guardian’s Middle East reporter Kareem Shaheen:
This is a video purporting to be from Damascus showing Syrian air defense firing at incoming missiles with the dawn call to prayer in the city in the background.
The Syrian government will likely portray the attack as showing Syria’s steadfastness against foreign aggression, handing a win to the Assad regime.
US-led airstrikes on Syria targeted sites in the capital Damascus, and in Homs.
Reports are emerging from Damascus, with the Syrian government saying it was able to “absorb” the US-led airstrikes on the capital and Homs, thanks to a warning from Russia. Syria says it was able to shoot down a third of the 30 missiles fired upon its territory.
The US said it gave Russia warning of the impending strikes but did not reveal any detail about targets.
The Syrian government and its allies have absorbed a U.S.-led attack on Saturday and the targeted sites were evacuated days ago thanks to a warning from Russia, a senior official in a regional alliance that backs Damascus said.
“We have absorbed the strike”, the official told Reuters.
Ewen MacAskill has written analysis of the military strikes. He says the US-led action carries risk, ‘but it’s not World War Three’.
It is intended as a one-off, with no further strikes planned unless Syrian president Bashar al-Assad conducts chemical attacks in the future.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and National Security Advisor John Bolton watch President Donald Trump’s announcement of military strikes on Syria. Bolton has been in the job five days. There are reports Bolton urged the president to conduct far larger military strikes than the more limited action counselled by secretary of defence Jim Mattis.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the US operation was “robust” and “clearly well-considered”.
“Tonight, the administration notified me of the president’s decision to use military action to deter Bashar al-Assad and respond to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people. I support both the action and objective.”
The Guardian’s Middle East reporter Kareem Shaheen is reporting on the sites hit by US-led air strikes.
A rebel official in the Qalamoun mountains, an area in the province of Damascus, said their fighters reported attacks near the town of al-Ruhaybah, as well as the Dumayr air base. Rebels in the area reported hearing and seeing the explosions in the areas.
The official said the first target is believed to be a storage facility for ballistic missile fuel, and may have been used for storing chemicals. Dumayr air base is believed to be the installation from which the helicopters that carried out the Douma chemical attack took off.
Amnesty International US has urged the American military and its allies to minimise civilian casualties in all of its strikes against Syria.
“The people of Syria have already endured six years of devastating attacks, including chemical attacks, many of which amount to war crimes,” Raed Jarrar, advocacy director for Middle East-North Africa said.
I will now hand you over to my colleague Ben Doherty for continued coverage of events in Syria.
The French presidential palace has released footage of its military jets setting off.
Décollage, cette nuit, des forces armées françaises qui interviennent contre l’arsenal chimique clandestin du régime syrien. Déclaration du Président de la République @EmmanuelMacron : https://t.co/HNSK0FmZIO pic.twitter.com/DEAW7R50aC
John McCain, a Trump foe and chairman of the Senate armed services committee, has applauded the president for taking military action “and for signalling his resolve to do so again if these heinous attacks continue”.
He says: “The message to Assad must be that the cost of using chemical weapons is worse than any perceived benefit, that the United States and our allies have the will and capability to continue imposing those costs, and that Iran and Russia will ultimately be unsuccessful in protecting Assad from our punitive response.”
A rebel official in the Qalamoun mountains, an area in the province of Damascus, said their fighters reported attacks near the town of al-Ruhaybah, as well as the Dumayr air base. Rebels in the area reported hearing and seeing the explosions there. Dumayr air base is believed to be the installation from which the helicopters that carried out the Douma chemical attack took off.
It is believed to be a storage facility for ballistic missile fuel, and might have been used for storing chemicals, the official said.
Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the US, has responded to the air strikes in Damascus and Homs. He says Moscows warnings have been left unheard and that Russia is being threatened. “We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” he says.
He says “insulting the president of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible” and that the US, as a holder of chemical weapons, has no moral right to blame other countries.
Statement by the Ambassador Antonov on the strikes on #Syria:
A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.
All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris. pic.twitter.com/QEmWEffUzx
This from Associated Press Middle East correspondent Bassem Mroue.
Australia, a staunch ally of the US and a member of the Five Eyes security alliance, was not a part of the air strikes on Syria, but has issued a statement supporting the coalition’s actions. The Guardian understands the Australian government was briefed by the US on the strikes shortly before they began.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, along with the foreign and defence ministers, issued a statement:
Australia supports these strikes, which demonstrate a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response. They send an unequivocal message to the Assad regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.
The use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances is illegal and utterly reprehensible. The Assad regime must not be allowed to commit such crimes with impunity.
Syrian media has reported that Syrian defences hit 13 rockets south of Damascus. It said vehicles with loudspeakers later emerged on the streets of Damascus blaring nationalist songs.
Some more detail on the recent Pentagon briefing conducted by US defence secretary James Mattis. He said there were no reports yet of any US losses during the initial airstrikes.
He said “right now this is a one-time shot” but did not rule out further attacks. Donald Trump said earlier that the campaign against Bashar al-Assad could be “sustained”.
France’s president Emannuel Macron said he acted because “a red line has been crossed”.
Le samedi 7 avril 2018, à Douma, des dizaines d’hommes, de femmes et d’enfants ont été massacrés à l’arme chimique.
La ligne rouge a été franchie.
J’ai donc ordonné aux forces armées françaises d’intervenir. https://t.co/Vt9LcFcFzH pic.twitter.com/Dc726PHfAR
The Pentagon briefing has now wrapped up and I will get you more detailed information on that shortly.
Circling back to the UK’s involvement, Gavin Williamson, the UK defence secretary, said: “The reprehensible use of chemical weapons in Douma is further evidence of the Syrian regime’s appalling cruelty against its own people. We will not stand by whilst innocent civilians, including women and children, are killed and made to suffer.
Here is the full text of Donald Trump’s earlier announcement of strikes against the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability.
In it, he says the attack a week ago on Douma “was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime”.
Mattis is still answering detailed questions. He says he is confident a chemical weapon was used, possibly sarin.
I haven’t read France’s or Britain’s “Constitution,” but I’ve read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to strike Syria.
Our wrap on the UK involvement in the Syrian strikes is up now. In a statement, prime minister Theresa May said it was not a decision she had taken lightly. In a thinly veiled swipe at Russia, and the Skripals poisoning, she said: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.”
France, the third partner in these strikes, has issued a statement. President Emmanuel Macron said the attack would be limited to Syria’s chemical weapons facilities.
“We cannot tolerate the recurring use of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and our collective security,” a statement said.
Mattis: “We did everything we could to minimise any chance of civilian casualties. We are aware this is very difficult.”
Mattis is asked when he was confident a chemical attack happened. He says yesterday.
Dunford is taking questions now, and says the Russians were not previously notified of the targets.
Dunford makes the point that last time the US conducted an airstrike – following a chemical attack in Ghouta – it was a unilateral action. This time, two allies – the Uk and France – were involved.
Mattis passes over to General Dunford. He says three sites have been hit.
The first target was a science research facility in the greater Damascus area. The second was a storage facility west of Homs they believe held precursor chemicals and sarin. The third was a chemical storage depot and “important command post”.
Mattis says the strikes were directed at the Syrian regime and that the military had “gone to great length to avoid civil and foreign casualties”.
Mattis said the US, UK and France took “decisive action” chemical weapon infrastructure. “Clearly the Assad regime did not get the message,” he said and that with US allies a clear message had been sent not to perpetrate another attack.
James Mattis, the US defence secretary, is speaking now.
The MoD said the strike in Homs was designed to “maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area”. It said the facility is “some distance” from any known concentrations of civilian habitation.
It said initial indications showed the attack was successful.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence has given details of its involvement in tonight’s strikes.
It says four RAF Tornados flew from Cyprus and fired Storm Shadow missiles at a former missile base in Syria, near Homs, where the Syrian government was believed to have kept chemical weapon precursors.
We have a wrap of what we know so far, by Julian Borger, our world affairs editor, here.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader has issued a strong rebuke of Trump for his actions, saying” “One night of airstrikes is not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy.”
She said the the president must come to Congress and secure authorisation for use of military force, while also holding “Putin accountable for his enabling of the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people.”
Further explosions are being heard in Damascus. CNN is quoting a senior administration official saying “this isn’t over” and that tonight is just the first wave of a “multi-wave” attack.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says several military bases have also been hit. It says the Republican Guard headquarters and the army’s 4th division were targeted.
Some more detail on the situation in Damascus. A Reuters witness has said at least six loud explosions were heard in the city and smoke was seen rising. Syrian state TV has said the army’s air defences were confronting an attack by the United States, France and Britain.
A second witness said the Barzah district of Damascus had been hit in the strikes. Barzah is the location of a major Syrian scientific research centre.
Worth noting that staff from the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were due to visit Damascus on Saturday to determine whether chemical weapons were used in Douma on 7 April.
Trump’s decision comes on a day of rapid developments:
The US is using Tomahawk cruise missiles in its strikes in Syria, and taking aim at multiple targets in the country, a US official has told Reuters. This would tally with CNN reports that ships and aircraft form part of the attack.
Syrian state TV says anti-aircraft weapons are being used against jets conducting air strikes. A district in Damascus, Barzeh, which houses a scientific laboratory, has been hit, according to one Reuters witness.
May echoes Trump’s sentiments in saying that the strike is targeted and is not intended as heralding an open-ended military presence.
She continues the pressure on Russia, whom the UK separately accuses of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, saying: “While this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.”
She criticises Russia for playing a role in closing off alternatives to military action, referring to a veto by Moscow of a UN security council resolution on investigating the attack in Douma. She says “There is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.”
May says the fact that the chemical attack happened “should surprise no one” given the regime’s history.
This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped – not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons. We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this.
The British prime minister, moments after Trump finished speaking.
This evening I have authorised British armed forces to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use. We are acting together with our American and French allies. In Douma, last Saturday a chemical weapons attack killed up to 75 people, including young children, in circumstances of pure horror.
Reuters says witnesses in Damascus have heard several large explosions and seen smoke on the east side of the city. Douma lies to the north-east. It is unclear if these are related to the US president’s announcement.
Donald Trump has finished speaking now. A Pentagon briefing, presumably shedding light on the targets, will follow in 50 minutes. Stay with us as we make sense of what has happened and will happen.
A little flair is entering his statement now: Trump refers to the “righteous power” of the US, UK and France in acting in the region. He urges Americans to say a prayer. He finishes with: “We pray that god will bring comfort to the suffering and guide the whole region.”
“The US will be a partner and a friend but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”
“America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria. We look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home.”
Trump delivers a message to those associated with the Assad regime in Syria. “What kind of nation wants to be associated with mass murder of innocent men women and children?” he asks.
The US president says “the evil and despicable attack left mothers and fathers, women and children thrashing in pain”. He says “they are crimes of a monster”.
A combined US, British and French military response is under way.
The president says he has ordered armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with chemical weapons capabilities
Trump is on stage
While we await an announcement, relations between the west and Russia have deteriorated sharply amid concerns about a US reprisal in the Middle East after the attack in which at least 45 people were killed and hundreds more were affected.
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, declared on Friday “the cold war is back with a vengeance”.
Hello and welcome. The White House press corps has been called to gather for an announcement by the US president at 9pm Washington time. He is expected to announce the US response to the chemical attack by the Syrian regime in the Damascus suburb of Douma a week ago.
Link : Syria latest: Theresa May calls strikes ‘right and legal’ – live updates