Mission accomplished, says Trump after Syria air strikes
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President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed a U.S.-led missile assault on Syria’s regime as “perfectly executed”, despite the limited nature of the strikes and Russia’s condemnation, which further heightened tensions between the Cold War foes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss what Moscow decried as an unjustified attack on a sovereign state.
At the meeting in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all members of the Security Council to exercise restraint and avoid escalation in Syria, but said allegations of chemical weapons use demands an investigation.
He said international investigators were ready to visit the site of the suspected attack in Douma.
The strikes were targeted to inflict maximum damage on sites linked to chemical weapons development. A top Pentagon official, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, said the action would set back Syria’s chemical weapons program “for years”.
The sounds of massive explosions rang out across Damascus just before dawn on Saturday, ushering in 45 minutes of explosions and the roar of warplanes, AFP's correspondent in the city said.
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows anti-aircraft fire in the sky after U.S.-led airstrikes targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus in retaliation for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons early on Saturday. Syrian air defenses responded to the joint strikes by the United States, France and Britain.
Flashes flared in the distance and by daybreak, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the city’s north and east.
“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military,” Mr. Trump tweeted early Saturday. “Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White later told reporters: “We successfully hit every target.”
Both the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia have denied all responsibility for the Douma attack, and Moscow slammed the “aggressive actions” of the Western coalition, but it has not yet responded militarily. The targets included a scientific research facility near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs, and a third location near Homs that contained both a command post and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility, the U.S. military said.
The facilities hit had however reportedly been evacuated in recent days.
Syrian state media reported only three people injured, while Russia’s Defense Ministry said there were “no victims” among Syrian civilians and military personnel.
Mr. Assad, who has denied ever using chemical weapons against his opponents, responded to the strikes with a defiant vow. “This aggression will only make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country,” he said.
Mr. Assad’s key ally Iran also slammed the attack, with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei describing Western leaders as “criminals”.
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows smoke, rising after U.S.-led airstrikes targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus in retaliation for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons early Saturday.
The targets appeared to steer well clear of any Russian personnel or equipment in Syria. The Russian military claimed Syrian air defence systems had intercepted 71 Western missiles, though the Pentagon disputed that.
In central Damascus, dozens of Syrians arrived on bicycles, on foot and in cars spray painted with the red, white, and black colors of the Syrian flag, blaring patriotic tunes.