The UK joined US and French forces in striking three main chemical weapons facilities in response to a poison gas attack that killed at least 75 people last week, and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday that there’ll be more strikes if the Syrian regime crosses ‘red lines’.
Russian military forces claim Syrian air defence systems managed to shoot down 71 out of 103 missiles. (Picture:Sputnik Arabic)
A video released by Syrian state TV shows piles of rubble outside destroyed buildings as well as burned vehicles. A distressed man holding a destroyed package can also be seen alongside fire engines at the scene at Barzah Scientific Research Facility.
The three nations launched more than 100 airstrikes in a ‘one-time shot’, said to be more than double the firepower of the US airstrike on a Syrian base last year.
Four Royal Air Force Tornados GR4s joined the co-ordinated missile strikes at 2am, launching Storm Shadow missiles at a base 15 miles west of Homs.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine General Joseph Dunford said the three facilities were targeted by both missiles from the sea and fired from aircraft, which triggered Syrian air defences. One of the targets hit was a scientific research center located in the greater Damascus area, the second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs and the third, which was also near Homs, contained both a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and a military base.
The Pentagon did not confirm how many missiles hit their targets, but Russian military forces claim Syrian air defence systems managed to shoot down 71 out of 103 missiles. The Syrian military says the attack on the first centre destroyed an educational centre and several labs, while the attack on the military base left three civilians wounded.
Rami Abdulrahman, director of The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said all the targeted locations were evacuated three days ago after the Russians told the government they had intelligence that bases including the research centers would be hit.
Speaking to French broadcaster BFMTV, Le Drian said there was “no doubt” about the suspected chemical attack in Douma.
“Chlorine was definitely used,” he said.
Le Drian continued, “If … the red line is crossed again, there will be new strikes.”
He said the objectives of the joint airstrikes had been met, adding: “I think the lesson would have been learnt.”
The French strikes, involving 12 cruise missiles, fighter jets and warships, were President Emmanuel Macron’s first major military decision since taking office in May last year.
Macron had repeatedly vowed France would intervene if the Syrian regime crossed the “red line” and used chemical weapons in Syria.
The foreign minister said a large part of Syria’s chemical arsenal had been destroyed, and all French jets returned safely.
Le Drian insisted it was important to continue talking to Russia, and that Macron’s trip to St. Petersburg at the end of May would go ahead as planned.
“This action was proportionate and targeted, it was not aimed at Assad’s allies nor at the civilian population,” Le Drian said earlier in a joint televised statement with Defense Minister Florence Parly.
The White Helmets, a civil defense agency, blamed the Assad regime for an alleged chemical attack earlier this month, which it said killed 78 civilians and injured hundreds of others.