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Apr 13, 2018

The Guardian | World news: Syria crisis: Trump says Strikes have been odered against Assad regime - live


theguardian.com

Syria crisis: Trump says strikes have been ordered against Assad regime – live | World news

Graham Russell


Some more detail on the situation in Damascus. A Reuters witness has said at least six loud explosions were heard in the city and smoke was seen rising. Syrian state TV has said the army’s air defences were confronting an attack by the United States, France and Britain.
A second witness said the Barzah district of Damascus had been hit in the strikes. Barzah is the location of a major Syrian scientific research centre.

Worth noting that staff from the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were due to visit Damascus on Saturday to determine whether chemical weapons were used in Douma on 7 April.

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Trump’s decision comes on a day of rapid developments:
  • The Russian defence minister, Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, claimed to have direct evidence that Britain had orchestrated the alleged chemical attack at Douma in Syria. The UK, he said, was “directly involved in the provocation”.
  • The White House said it had “a high level of confidence” that the Syrian regime carried out the chemical weapon attack in Douma.
  • The US, UK and France continued to build up military resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

The US is using Tomahawk cruise missiles in its strikes in Syria, and taking aim at multiple targets in the country, a US official has told Reuters. This would tally with CNN reports that ships and aircraft form part of the attack.

Syrian air defences confronting allied jets - state TV

Syrian state TV says anti-aircraft weapons are being used against jets conducting air strikes. A district in Damascus, Barzeh, which houses a scientific laboratory, has been hit, according to one Reuters witness.

May echoes Trump’s sentiments in saying that the strike is targeted and is not intended as heralding an open-ended military presence.
She continues the pressure on Russia, whom the UK separately accuses of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, saying: “While this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.”

She criticises Russia for playing a role in closing off alternatives to military action, referring to a veto by Moscow of a UN security council resolution on investigating the attack in Douma. She says “There is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.”

May says the fact that the chemical attack happened “should surprise no one” given the regime’s history.
She adds:
This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped – not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons. We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this.

Theresa May issues statement

The British prime minister, moments after Trump finished speaking.
This evening I have authorised British armed forces to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use. We are acting together with our American and French allies. In Douma, last Saturday a chemical weapons attack killed up to 75 people, including young children, in circumstances of pure horror.

Explosions heard in Damascus

Reuters says witnesses in Damascus have heard several large explosions and seen smoke on the east side of the city. Douma lies to the north-east. It is unclear if these are related to the US president’s announcement.

Donald Trump has finished speaking now. A Pentagon briefing, presumably shedding light on the targets, will follow in 50 minutes. Stay with us as we make sense of what has happened and will happen.