The United States of America and its European allies launched air strikes on chemical weapons sites on Friday night in response to last week’s chemical attack that killed more than 40 people in Douma.
Britain and France joined the United States in the strikes in a coordinated operation against what the leaders of the three nations called persistent violations of international law.
The Pentagon said the US and its allies fired more than 100 missiles from ships and aircraft, but it could not confirm how many missiles hit their targets. A pro-Assad official said about 30 missiles were fired at Syria and that about a third were shot down.
Several explosions were heard in Damascus. Black plumes of smoke were seen rising from in the east, and the sky turned orange.
Trump said the strikes were in response to the “evil and the despicable” chemical attack on April 7 which “left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2018
Trump characterized it as the beginning of a sustained effort to force Assad to stop using banned weapons, but only ordered a limited, one-night operation that hit three targets.
Russia, the Syrian regime’s most powerful ally, harshly criticized the airstrikes but did not respond militarily.
Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain said Syria had left the allies no choice. “This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped, not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons, but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons,” she said.
But she also emphasized the limits of the operation’s goals, reflecting the reluctance in London as well as Washington to become too immersed in the fratricidal war in Syria.
“This is not about intervening in a civil war,” she said. “It is not about regime change. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.”