The United States launched a massive military strike on a Syrian air base in retaliation for a “barbaric” chemical attack on civilians as President Donald Trump appealed to all “civilised nations” to join America to end the “bloodshed” in the war-torn country.
On President Trump’s orders, US warships launched between 50-60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase where the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks were based, US officials said.
US also blamed Russia, one of the key supporters of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, for failing in its responsibility to deliver on a 2013 commitment to secure Syria’s chemical weapons,
“Clearly Russia has failed in its responsibility. Either Russia has been complicit or either Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters.
Russia too has joined the war of words. On Friday morning, soon after the US retaliation, Russia called the US airstrikes an “aggression against sovereign state”.
Kremlin also warned the US that the recent airstrikes will inflict ‘considerable damage’ to US-Russia ties.
“President Putin considers American strikes on Syria aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms, and under an invented pretext,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov is said to have reportedly told the press in Moscow.
US President described the chemical attack on innocent civilians as “horrible”, and blamed the Assad government for the loss of innocent lives.
“It is in vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter use of deadly chemical weapons,” President Trump told reporters.
“There can be no dispute that Syria used the banned chemical weapon, violated its obligations under the chemicals weapons convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council,” he said.
“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically. As a result the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise threatening the US and its allies. I call on all civilised nations to join us seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and types,” Trump appealed.
Pentagon said Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. US military planners took precautions to minimise risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield,” he added.
The Pentagon said the missile strike that targeted Shayrat Airfield in Homs governorate was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act.
“The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The US intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4,” Pentagon Press Secretary Capt Jeff Davis said.
The suspected chemical attack left at least 86 people dead in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in northwestern Syria.
The deaths sparked international outrage with many pointing the finger at the government of President Assad.
The Syrian army on Tuesday denied that it had used chemical weapons.
The airstrike has been welcomed by top American lawmakers.
“These military strikes against Assad’s arsenal send a clear signal that the United States will stand up for internationally accepted norms and rules against the use of chemical weapons,” said Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Meanwhile Syria slammed the US missile attack on the government-controlled air base calling it an “aggression” that led to “losses.” Rebels, however welcomed the US attack.
(With inputs from agencies)