The U.S. announced missile strikes against the Bashar Assad regime in Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians last week. The strikes began last night at 9 p.m. EST and last for an about an hour.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford briefed the press from the Pentagon after the strikes had concluded at about 10 p.m. EST. Three facilities were targeted, according to Dunford – two storage facilities west of the city of Homs and a scientific research center located in the greater Damascus area.
That target was a center for research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology, according to U.S. officials.
French and British forces joined the planning and execution of the attack according to Mattis, and Mattis and Dunford were joined last night at the briefing by the French attaché Brigadier General Montague and the British Attache Air Vice Marshal Gavin Parker. Neither of them addressed the media nor took questions.
General Dunford stressed the targets were chosen to minimize civilian casualties, which is why the strikes were conducted in the middle of the night local Syrian time. The second goal of the strikes was to set back Syrian chemical weapons program.
“Important infrastructure was destroyed, which will result in a setback for the Syrian regime. They will lose years of research and development data, specialized equipment and expensive chemical weapons precursors,” Dunford said.
“The strike was not only a strong message to the regime that their actions were inexcusable, but it also inflicted maximum damage, without unnecessary risk to innocent civilians,” he added.
The international community was quick to condemn an attack on innocent civilians in the city of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region of Syria, on Saturday, April 7th. Ghouta is a suburban area of Damascus, the Syrian capital. Douma was the last rebel-held town in the area. The deaths are suspected to have been caused by chemical weapons used the Bashar Assad regime.
Dozens of Syrians began streaming into local hospitals and clinics complaining of burning eyes after the attack, as well as breathing problems. Antigovernment forces began circulating videos of victims who had died from apparent suffocation, many with white foam coming from their mouths and nostrils.
The Syrian American Medical Society is reporting that some 500 people have been treated for symptoms of exposure to some kind of chemical agent. SAMS is also reporting that seventy people have died as a result of the attack over the weekend, including forty-three whose symptoms are consistent with a chemical weapons attack.
The Assad regime denies using any chemical weapons and accuses rebels of conducting a false-flag operation meant to illicit international reaction. Syria’s strongest allies, Russia and Iran also denied Syria’s involvement.
“The spread of bogus stories about the use of chlorine and other poisonous substances by government forces continues,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The aim of such deceitful speculation, lacking any kind of grounding, is to shield terrorists and to attempt to justify possible external uses of force.”
The allegations that the Assad regime is behind the attack “is not compatible with reality,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.
President Trump, within days of the attack directed Secretary of Defense Mattis to draw up plans for a strike that would degrade Assad’s chemical-weapons-use capability and deter him from using such weapons again.
“President Trump directed the U.S. military to conduct operations in consonance with our allies to destroy the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons research development and production capability,” Mattis said.
“Together we have sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable,” he added.
Photo by US Navy via Wikimedia Commons