Posted by News Express | 7 April 2017 | 2,374 times
The U.S. military fired a barrage of missiles into Syria early Friday in retaliation for a gruesome chemical weapons attack blamed on President Bashar al-Assad’s forces that killed about 100 civilians. It is the first direct U.S. assault on Syrian government forces.
The 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from the U.S. Navy destroyers USS Ross and USS Porter, which are deployed in the eastern Mediterranean.
U.S. forces are said to have targeted Shayrat Airfield in western Syria in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack that American officials believe Syrian government aircraft launched on a rebel-held town with a nerve gas, possibly sarin.
Sarin nerve gas
“We have a very high level of confidence” the strikes Tuesday were “carried out by aircraft of the Bashar al-Assad regime” and a high degree of confidence it was “sarin nerve gas,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday.
U.S. officials said the missile strikes avoided depots where they believe sarin is being stored.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said an initial assessment of the strikes found they had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment.”
In an address to the nation late Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump said the strikes were ordered because it was in the “vital national security interest” of the U.S.
“On Tuesday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians using a deadly nerve agent. ... Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump said.
“It is in this vital national security interest of the Untied States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” he added, calling the chemical weapons attack this week “very barbaric,” saying it had “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.”
Trump also called on all civilised nations to join the U.S. “in seeking an end to the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”
Syrian state TV called the U.S. strike an act of “aggression.” While a Turkish-based Syrian opposition group, the Syrian Coalition, welcomed the U.S. attack, saying it puts an end to an age of “impunity” and said the military action should continue.
Not a small strike
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, speaking to reporters late Thursday, said, “Obviously, the regime will retain a capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons beyond this airfield.”
He added: “This was not a small strike.”
In a statement released shortly after the U.S. airstrikes, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said, “We salute the skill and professionalism of the U.S. Armed Forces who carried out tonight’s strikes in Syria. Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by (President Vladimir) Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs.”
Early Friday, Russia responded by saying its relations with Washington would likely deteriorate after the U.S. missile strikes. The deputy chairman of the defense committee said Moscow may terminate interaction with the U.S. military regarding Syria.
Russia also said it would seek an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the U.S. “act of aggression” in Syria.
•Excerpted from a VOA report.
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