UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier called for restraint, asking member states “to act consistently with the charter of the United Nations and with international law, including the norms against chemical weapons.”
– ‘Perfectly executed’ –
Just before dawn on Saturday, the sounds of massive explosions and the roar of warplanes rang out across Damascus for about 45 minutes.
“A perfectly executed strike last night,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.
“Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
Trump drew some criticism for his choice of words: former president George W. Bush notoriously stood on an aircraft carrier just a few weeks after the initial Iraq invasion in 2003 in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner.
The targets included a scientific research facility near Damascus, and two chemical weapons facilities outside the city of Homs, the US military said, though reports said the buildings had 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.
According to US officials, the operation involved three US destroyers, a French frigate and a US submarine. The vessels were located in the Red Sea, the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean.
A top Pentagon official, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, said the action would set back Syria’s chemical weapons program “for years.”
– Assad defiant –
The strikes were the biggest foreign military action so far against Syria’s regime.
On Saturday, Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron huddled by telephone to discuss their joint action.
“By working together, in a coordinated fashion, we can definitively prevent the Syrian regime from carrying out chemical attacks against its own people,” Macron said on Twitter.
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.
Assad’s key ally Iran also slammed the attack, with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei describing Western leaders as “criminals.”