Syria under US missile attack

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The United States launched a military strike Friday morning local time (Thursday evening ET) on a Syrian government airfield, in response to the chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week. Here’s the latest:

– The Syrian Armed Forces General Command said in a live televised address that six people were killed in the missile strike on the Shayrat airfield.
– Viktor Ozerov, head of Russia’s Defense Committee in the Federation Council told Russian state news agency RIA that the strike would “undermine the efforts in the fight against terrorism” in Syria, and that cooperation between the US and Russia may be “shut down.”
– On President Donald Trump’s orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase where the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks were based, US officials said.
– US lawmakers voiced support for Trump’s decision but also cautioned the President to consult Congress before starting a war.
Former Democratic presidential candidate and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a speech in New York on Thursday, advocated taking out Syrian military airfields.
– The strikes are the first direct military action the US has taken against the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year civil war, and represent a substantial escalation of the US military campaign in the region, which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.

Merkel, Hollande: Assad bears full responsibility for US strike

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have issued a joint statement, saying Syrian President Assad bears full responsibility for the US strike on a Syrian military base.

The two leaders discussed the situation in Syria on the phone Friday morning. They say they were informed about the strike beforehand.

“Assad bears full responsibility for this development. His continued use of chemical weapons and mass crimes cannot go unpunished. This is what France had asked in the summer of 2013, the day after the chemical attack in Ghouta,” their statement reads.

Hollande and Merkel called on the international community to come together and work on a political transition in Syria, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 and the Geneva communiqué.

“France and Germany will therefore continue their efforts, with their partners … to punish in the most appropriate way the criminal acts related to the use of chemical weapons prohibited by all the treaties,” the two leaders said.

Russian FM: Strike ‘act of aggression’ motivated by ‘contrived pretext’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has described the US airstrike as “an act of aggression which is entirely motivated by contrived pretext.”

The US “looked everywhere for a pretext to subvert the political process and just have regime change in Syria,” he said today in Moscow.

“I am particularly disappointed by the way this damages US-Russia relations. (But) I don’t think this will lead to an irreversible situation,” he added.

Lavrov said the Kremlin doesn’t have any concrete information regarding any Russian casualties in the strike.

Putin: Strike ‘act of aggression; serious blow to relations’

Russian President Vladimir Putin described the US airstrikes on Syria as “an act of aggression” that “dealt a serious blow to Russian-US relations.” He said their aim is to distract from the civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in Iraq, according to a statement from the press service of the President of Russia.

Here is the statement:

“The President of Russia regards the US airstrikes on Syria as an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext.

The Syrian Army has no chemical weapons. The fact of the destruction of all Syrian chemical weapons’ stockpiles has been recorded and verified by the OPCW, a specialised UN body.

Vladimir Putin believes that complete disregard for factual information about the use by terrorists of chemical weapons drastically aggravates the situation.This move by Washington has dealt a serious blow to Russian-US relations, which are already in a poor state.

Most importantly, this move will not bring us closer to the ultimate goal of combatting international terrorism but will instead create a major obstacle to the establishment of an international counterterrorist coalition and to effective struggle against this global evil, something that US President Donald Trump declared as one of his main goals during his election campaign.

Vladimir Putin regards the US strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”

Trump-Xi summit overshadowed by US strike on Syria

A meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which should have been an prime opportunity to forge a personal connection and recalibrate the world’s most important bilateral relationship has been overshadowed by the biggest military action of Trump’s presidency.

Indeed, the two leaders were sitting down to steak and pan-seared sole shortly after Trump made the decision to pull the trigger on a missile strike in Syria. But issues like North Korea continue to loom.

Putin slams ‘trumped-up’ US strike against Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced the US strike against a Syrian government airbase as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law.”

The Kremlin added that Putin sees the latest US military action as “an attempt to distract from the mounting civilian casualties in Iraq.”

Read more.

French FM: Russia, Iran cannot keep supporting Assad

“The Russians and the Iranians must understand that they cannot keep supporting Bashar al-Assad’s government in this despicable way. This is wrong, this does not make any sense,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told the France Info radio station Friday.

“It is now time to reconsider what we had decided together, that is to say the basis of political transition, which involves respecting the Geneva negotiations. These negotiations must not be fake, they must be deep, sincere and efficient,” Ayrault added.

“The Americans are beginning to clarify their position. They acted in a way that shows there is a condemnation of the regime, which is a criminal regime,” he said.

Turkey: Strike a ‘positive response’

“We consider this morning’s (missile) strikes against the Shayrat airbase in Homs, Syria by the United States a positive response to the Assad regime’s war crimes,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement.

“What happened in Idlib on Tuesday proved again that the bloody Assad regime shows complete disregard for the prospect of a political transition and efforts to enforce the ceasefire,” he said, referring to Tuesday’s chemical weapon attack on civilians in the western Syrian province.

“The destruction of Shayrat airbase marks an important step to ensure that chemical and conventional attacks against the civilian population do not go unpunished.”

Kalin added that it is “necessary to enforce a no-fly zone and create safe zones in Syria without further delay.”

Separately, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that the “US attacks on military structures of the Assad regime are understandable.”

“It is now crucial to jointly work under the UN umbrella towards peace and a political situation,” he said from the sidelines of a meeting in Mali.

Official: Mattis informed NATO of strike ahead of time

A NATO official tells CNN that the organization’s head Jens Stoltenberg was informed by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis ahead of the US missile strike on a Syrian base.

“We refer you to the US authorities regarding the strikes in Syria, but we can confirm that the NATO Secretary General was informed by the US Secretary of Defense prior to the strikes,” the official said.

CNN correspondent: US now involved in ‘horrifically complex’ war

“This is a horrifically complex civil war that the US has now thrown some cruise missiles into the middle of, with potentially far-reaching consequences,” says Matthew Chance, CNN’s senior international correspondent, from Moscow.

“The Russians used that air base as a forward operating base for their attack helicopters, they’ve invested a lot of money in updating and upgrading it and it’s just been severely downgraded of course by the US military.

“I think it’s fortunate that no Russians were caught up in this, or we’d be having a different conversation but it seems the Russians were warned in advance, they also interestingly didn’t use their surface to air missiles, which are very capable of taking out those cruise missiles, to defend their Syrian ally. And I think that is important.”

CNN correspondent: US now involved in ‘horrifically complex’ war

“This is a horrifically complex civil war that the US has now thrown some cruise missiles into the middle of, with potentially far-reaching consequences,” says Matthew Chance, CNN’s senior international correspondent, from Moscow.

“The Russians used that air base as a forward operating base for their attack helicopters, they’ve invested a lot of money in updating and upgrading it and it’s just been severely downgraded of course by the US military.

“I think it’s fortunate that no Russians were caught up in this, or we’d be having a different conversation but it seems the Russians were warned in advance, they also interestingly didn’t use their surface to air missiles, which are very capable of taking out those cruise missiles, to defend their Syrian ally. And I think that is important.”

Syrian military: Six killed in missile strike

Six people were killed in the US strike on Syria early Friday, according to a televised statement by the Syrian’s Armed Forces General Command.

Trump’s change of heart on Syria

“There’s no question that some of Trump’s shift is … explained by the massive difference between being a private citizen offering a critique via Twitter and being the president of the United States,” says Chris Cillizza, CNN Politics editor-at-large.

“The weight of the office changes people.”

Chinese state-run tabloid: Trump ‘haste’ leaves ‘deep impression’

China’s Global Times, a provocative state-owned tabloid, has published an editorial on the US airstrikes in Syria, saying that US President Donald Trump ordered the action to “set up his authority,” adding the “haste and inconsistency” of this move has left “a deep impression.”

“Trump quickly decided to fight against the Assad regime to set up his authority as the US president,” the editorial says. “He wanted to prove that he dares to do what Obama did not dare. While Obama was equivocal, his attitude is clear-cut.

“He also proves to the world that he isn’t merely a ‘businessman president.’ He will mobilize US military force without any hesitation when necessary.”

It adds that the action in Homs province could end Trump’s “honeymoon period” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Homs governor: Strike killed four people

At least four people were killed and seven wounded in the US airstrike on the Syrian regime’s Al Shayrat airbase in Homs province, according to the province’s governor.

Gov. Talal Barazi said that civilians living in a village neighboring the base were among the casualties, according to reporting by Russia’s state-run RIA news agency.

The claim was backed up by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group, citing sources inside the base. The SOHR report claims that the four dead were Syrian army officers.

Russian official: Strike will undermine fight on terror

Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense committee in the Russian Federation Council, told state news agency RIA:

“US strikes on (the) Syrian aviation base may undermine the efforts in the fight against terrorism in Syria. Russia will demand an urgent UN Security Council meeting after the US airstrike on Syrian aviation base.

“This is an act of aggression against a UN member.”

He added that cooperation between the Russian and US military branches may be shut down after the strike on the Al Shayrat Airfield near Homs.

CNN correspondent: Strike ‘one of the last nails’ in Russia-US reset hopes

“In terms of the relationship between the US and Russia: it has been rocky, there were hopes it would be restored under President Trump, he certainly made that kind of commitment during his campaign,” Matthew Chance, CNN’s international correspondent in Moscow, told CNN’s John Vause.

“But I have to say this has to be one of the last nails, if not the last nail in the coffin of any idea there is going to be a détente or a reset between Russia and the US at this point. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov (said) as much: ‘This action is causing a significant damage to Russian american relations.'”

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