In a televised address from the White House, Trump said “A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.”
“These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,” Mr Trump said referring to Assad and his role in the chemical weapons attacks.
As he spoke, at least six loud explosions were heard in Damascus on Saturday and smoke was seen rising over the Syrian capital.
Syrian state TV said the army’s air defences shot down 13 missiles fired in a U.S.-led attack in the Kiswah area south of Damascus, the capital.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of three scientific research centres had been hit in the attacks -two in Damascus and one in the Homs area – in addition to military bases in Damascus.
“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons,” Trump said.
The U.S. president had sharply critical words for both Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad’s government.
“To Iran and to Russia, I ask, what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?” Trump said.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the strikes were not about “regime change,” but “about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.”
May said while the strike was targeted at Syria, it sent a message to anyone who used chemical weapons.
Britain has accused Russia of being behind a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England last month, a charge Moscow has rejected.
“This is the first time as prime minister that I have had to take the decision to commit our armed forces in combat and it is not a decision I have taken lightly,” she said.
“I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britain’s national interest. 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.”
French 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.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Friday the air strikes on targets in Syria were a “one time shot” to send a strong message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria has denied carrying out the attack and its ally, Russia, warned that Western military strikes would risk starting a war.
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