President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed a US-led missile assault on Syria’s regime as “perfectly executed,” despite the limited nature of the strikes and Russia’s condemnation, which further heightened tensions between the Cold War foes.
The UN Security Council was set to meet at Moscow’s request at 1500 GMT over the operation, which was unleashed by the US, Britain and France in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Douma.
The strikes were targeted to inflict maximum damage on sites linked to chemical weapons development. A top Pentagon official, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, said the action would set back Syria’s chemical weapons program “for years.”
The sounds of massive explosions rang out across Damascus just before dawn on Saturday, ushering in 45 minutes of explosions and the roar of warplanes, AFP’s correspondent in the city said.
Flashes flared in the distance and by daybreak, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the city’s north and east.
“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.
“Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White later told reporters: “We successfully hit every target.” Both the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia have denied all responsibility for the deadly Douma attack, and Moscow slammed the “aggressive actions” of the Western coalition, but it has not yet responded militarily.
‘Crimes of a monster’
US President Donald Trump announced the joint action against Assad’s regime from the White House late Friday.
Trump said the strikes were a direct response to the April 7 attack on Douma, outside Damascus, that rescuers and monitors say killed more than 40 people.
“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,” Trump said.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strikes a “one-time shot” with no additional military action planned for now.
The strikes were the biggest foreign military action so far against Syria’s regime.
The targets included a scientific research facility near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs, and a third location near Homs that contained both a command post and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility, the US military said.
The facilities hit had however reportedly been evacuated in recent days.
Syrian state media reported only three people injured, while Russia’s defense ministry said there were “no victims” among Syrian civilians and military personnel.
Assad, who has denied ever using chemical weapons against his opponents, responded to the strikes with a defiant vow.
“This aggression will only make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country,” he said.