US’ retaliation strike on Syria nets int’l support
WASHINGTONU.S. forces fired a barrage of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base on April 7 in response to a suspected chemical attack earlier in the week, with U.S. allies rallying around Washington after the strike.
U.S. officials said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from Navy ships in the Mediterranean at the Shayrat airfield at 3:40 a.m. (12:40 a.m. GMT), dealing heavy damage to the base from where Washington believes the April 4 deadly attack was launched.
Syrian state news agency SANA said nine civilians, including four children, were killed in villages near the base.
The strike - the first direct U.S. action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and U.S. President Donald Trump’s biggest military decision since taking office - marked a dramatic escalation in U.S. involvement in Syria’s six-year civil war.
It followed days of outrage at images of dead children and victims suffering convulsions from the suspected sarin gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.
Trump announced the strike in a brief televised address delivered hours after the U.N. Security Council failed to agree on a probe into the suspected chemical attack.
“Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types,” Trump said.
Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all supported Washington, with Ankara also calling for a no-fly zone in Syria.
France and Germany will continue efforts through the United Nations to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, French President Francois Hollande said in a statement on April 7 after telephone talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Assad bears full responsibility for this development,” the statement said.
Britain also gave its backing.
“The U.K. government fully supports the U.S. action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime and is intended to deter further attacks,” a government spokesman stated.
The European Union said on April 7 it understood the aim of U.S. missile strikes in Syria as an effort to deter any more chemical attacks there, but highlighted political solutions as the only way to end the war.
The nuanced line taken by the bloc’s 28 states reflects their disgust at a chemical attack that killed scores of people, but also a worry about any more escalation in the conflict following the unilateral U.S. move.
“The U.S. has informed the European Union that ... [it] launched a strike on Shayrat Airfield in Syria with the understandable intention to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” the bloc’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said in a statement on behalf of all member states.
“The U.S. also informed us that these strikes are limited and focused on preventing and deterring further use of chemical weapons atrocities,” the statement read.
The missiles were fired from the USS Porter and the USS Ross, which belong to the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet, in the eastern Mediterranean.
The strike targeted radars, aircraft, air defense systems and other logistical components at the base south of Homs in central Syria.
The Syrian opposition applauded the U.S.’s attack but said it must not be a one-off and was not enough on its own to stop government warplanes from hitting rebel-held areas.
“One air base is not enough. There are 26 airbases that target civilians,” tweeted Mohammad Alloush, a senior rebel official. George Sabra, a prominent opposition politician, told al-Hadath TV: “The truth is that militarily, if it is limited to this strike, then it has no meaning.”
The Free Syrian Army, a loose alliance of rebel groups that includes factions that have received military support from the United States, called the U.S. strike the “correct starting point” for finding a “just political solution” to the war.
“We view that the responsibility of the United States is still great, and does not stop with this operation,” it added in a statement, warning that the Damascus government and its allies could commit “acts of revenge” against civilians.