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US missile attack on Syria

The United States, France, and the United Kingdom carried out a series of military strikes, involving manned aircraft and ship-based missiles, against multiple government sites in Syria. The three western powers said they carried out the strikes in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack on Douma of eastern Ghouta on 7 April, which they attributed to the Syrian government. Syria denied involvement in the Douma attacks and called the airstrikes a violation of international law. 

On 7 April 2018, a suspected chemical attack was carried out in the Syrian city of Douma, with at least 70 people being reported as killed by the attack. Several medical, monitoring, and activist groups—including the White Helmets—reported that Syrian Army helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the city of Douma. The bombs were suspected to be filled with chemical munitions such as chlorine gas and sarin.

As with previous incidents, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other nations accused the Assad regime of being responsible for the use of chemical weapons. Russia and Iran, the Syrian government's main allies, denied that chemical weapons had been used, claiming the Douma attack was a false flag attack. Russia has alleged that video of the chemical attack had been staged by members of the White Helmets organization. In May 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a red line which would require immediate reprisal. France and the United States cited positive urine and blood samples collected as proof of chlorine being used in Douma. In the early hours of 9 April 2018, an airstrike was conducted against Tiyas Military Airbase in Syria. comment.

On 10 April, an emergency UN Security Council meeting was held, where competing solutions on how to handle the response to the alleged chemical attack were presented and ultimately vetoed. By 11 April, each of the western nations began to consider military action in Syria seeking a "strong joint response." On 11 April, the Syrian government said it has invited Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the sites of the alleged attacks. “Syria is keen on cooperating with the OPCW to uncover the truth behind the allegations that some western sides have been advertising to justify their aggressive intentions,” state news agency SANA said, quoting an official source in the Foreign Ministry. On 13 April, after initially denying the use of chemical weapons Russia alleged Britain "staged" the attack in order to provoke U.S. airstrikes.

The strikes were carried out by the forces of the United States, the United Kingdom and France. The strikes were delivered by ship-based cruise missiles as well as by aircraft. The British forces consisted of four Tornado GR4s armed with Storm Shadow missiles. The French frigate Aquitaine was involved in the strikes. The French Air Force also sent several warplanes. The US forces included B-1 bombers and at least one warship based in the Red Sea. The Tomahawks were fired from the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) and an unspecified Ticonderoga-class cruiser. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that twice as many weapons were used in the initial strike compared to the 2017 Shayrat missile strike. An anonymous US Defense Department official quoted by The Washington Post said that about 100 Tomahawk missiles were fired by the US. Syria responded using its air defense systems and its state media aired a video of missiles being fired into the sky. Syrian state news agency SANA, as well Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military, claimed that the Syrian air defense systems Pantsir-S1, S-125, S-200, Buk, and Kvadrat intercepted and destroyed many missiles.

President Trump announced the strikes at 9PM 13 April ET (4AM 14 April in Syria) along with allies France and the United Kingdom. Explosions were heard in Damascus, the capital of Syria, just as Trump was speaking. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said three sites were targeted: a research center in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs, and an equipment storage facility and command post also near Homs. The UK Ministry of Defence reported that British aircraft struck chemical weapons sites in Homs. Witnesses reported loud explosions and smoke in the capital Damascus in the early morning, including in the Barzeh neighborhood, the site of the Barzah scientific research centre, a major scientific research establishment. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that attack sites included two scientific research centers in Damascus and another in the Homs area, as well as military bases in Damascus. 

Syrian state media said that Syria responded to the attacks by firing anti-aircraft weapons, and that its air defenses shot down 13 incoming missiles near Al-Kiswa, south of Damascus. The Russian military reported that Syria's air defenses shot down 71 out of 103 cruise missiles. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights accounted for more than 65 missiles intercepted by the Syrian government and their allies. Missiles launched at Homs fell away from their target. No human losses were reported, but large material damage was reported.

Hundreds of Syrians in Damascus were seen protesting, denouncing the attack. Demonstrators were seen waving Iranian, Syrian and Russian flags while also shouting slogans of allegiance to President al-Assad. 


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