Here are the main developments since the United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of pre-dawn strikes against Syria’s regime Saturday in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on April 7.
On Friday at 9:00 pm in Washington (0100 GMT Saturday, 4:00 am in Syria), US president Donald Trump announced a military operation with France and Britain was taking place in Syria against president Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“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,” Trump said in a primetime address from the White House.
AFP’s correspondent in Damascus said a series of huge blasts were heard and residents rushed to their balconies. Explosions echoed and the sound of warplanes roared over the city, as flashes flared in the distance.
When dawn broke, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the city’s north and east.
More than 100 missiles
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the “scientific research centres” and “several military bases” hit in the strikes had been “completely evacuated”.
The three allies used ships, a submarine and warplanes to launch a barrage of 105 guided missiles towards three chemical weapons facilities in Syria, US officials said.
A top Pentagon official, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, said the action would set back Syria’s chemical weapons programme “for years.”
The Western strikes claimed no victims among Syrian civilians or military, according to Moscow.
“All centres targeted in the strikes early Saturday were completely empty (of personnel), after those who were present there withdrew more than three days ago,” the Syrian Observatory said.
“Mission Accomplished!” Trump tweeted early Saturday.
“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military”.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White later told reporters: “We successfully hit every target.”
British prime minister Theresa May said there was “no practicable alternative” to the use of force in Syria.
French president Emmanuel Macron said the French strikes targeted “the capacities of the Syrian regime to produce and use chemical weapons”.
His foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the strikes “proportional and targeted” and warned France would not hesitate to strike again in case of further chemical attacks.
“On the question of chemical weapons, there is a red line that must not be crossed, and if it should be crossed again, there will be another intervention,” Le Drian said.
German chancellor Angela Merkel described the strikes as “necessary and appropriate” while Turkey welcomed the “appropriate response”.
NATO also expressed support while UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres called for “restraint in these dangerous circumstances”.
Saudi Arabia gave its backing to the strikes, saying they were a response to “regime crimes” against civilians.
‘Doomed to fail’
Syria’s government denounced the strikes on its military installations as a “brutal, barbaric aggression” that violated international law.
SANA said the attack was “doomed to fail”.
Assad, in a telephone conversation with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, said the strikes only made him “more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country”.
An impromptu early morning rally in Damascus saw crowds of people heading to the famed Umayyad Square to show support for Assad, waving government flags and blaring patriotic songs.
UN Security Council
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Trump, Macron and May “criminals”, while China said it was “opposed to the use of force” and called for a “return to the framework of international law”.
Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, warned of unspecified repercussions, adding that “insulting” Putin was “unacceptable”.
Russia denounced the strikes as “aggressive actions” and at an emergency session of the UN Security Council demanded a vote condemning the US and its allies for carrying out the strikes.