Monday, 23 July 2018 | News today: 1

Trump hails ‘prefect’ Syria strike

US President Donald Trump has hailed an overnight military strike on Syria as “perfectly executed”, adding: “Mission Accomplished”, the BBC reports.

The US, UK and France bombed three government sites, targeting what they said were chemical weapons facilities.

The strikes were in response to a suspected deadly chemical attack on the town of Douma last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he condemned the Western strikes “in the most serious way”.

Russia, Syria’s main ally, had threatened military retaliation if any Russian forces had been hit.

In early morning tweets from Washington, President Trump thanked France and the UK for “their wisdom and the power of their fine military”.

He added: “So proud of our great military”, saying that after extra funding it would be “the finest our country has ever had”.

A Pentagon briefing on Saturday said the strikes had “set the Syrian chemical weapons programme back for years”.

In a Friday evening address to the nation from the White House, Trump had said: “The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.

“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons.”

The wave of strikes is the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad’s government by Western powers in seven years of Syria’s civil war.

Responding to the strikes, Assad said in comments published by his office: “This aggression will only make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country.”

At a Pentagon briefing on Saturday, Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie listed the three targets that had been struck:

– The Barzah chemical weapons research and development centre near Damascus was hit by 76 missiles, 57 of them Tomahawks. The target was “destroyed”;

– The Himshun Sar chemical weapons storage facility near Homs was hit by 22 “weapons” – US, UK and French’

– The Himshun Sar chemical weapons bunker facility near Homs was targeted with seven Scout missiles and was “successfully hit”.

Gen McKenzie said the “initial indications are that we accomplished the military objectives without interference from Syria”.

He said “none of the aircraft or missiles were successfully engaged” by defence systems and all aircraft returned.

Gen McKenzie said about 40 Syrian defence missiles were fired, mostly after the targets were hit. No Russian defence systems were operated, he said.

The Pentagon briefing conflicted with information given at a Russian defence ministry briefing, which said Russian units had tracked the actions of the US and UK forces but not the French.

It said “a number Syrian military airfields, industrial and research facilities” were hit.

The ministry said 103 cruise missiles had been launched and 71 were shot down by Syrian systems.

It accepted the “alleged chemical weapons facilities” near Damascus and Homs were “partially destroyed”.

The ministry said there were other locations that were targeted but not hit, including Damascus International Airport and the al-Dumayr and Blai airdromes, and the Shayrat air base.

According to a Russian defence ministry statement, “preliminary information” said there had been no casualties among the Syrian army or civilians.

The Pentagon said it also had no confirmation of any civilian casualties.

Reaction to the strikes was mixed among the international community.

President Putin said they were “an act of aggression”. The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet at 15:00 GMT at his request.

China said it opposed the use of force and that there could only be a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who had ruled out joining the military action – said she supported the strikes as “necessary and appropriate”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted support for the strikes, saying those who use chemical weapons “must be held accountable”.

NATO said it would hold a special meeting on Saturday.