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    Saturday, 14 April 2018

    US, France and UK strike bases, chemical research centres in Syria

    Western strikes early on Saturday hit Syrian military bases and chemical research centres in and around the capital, a monitor said, as the United States (US) announced a joint operation against the Damascus government.
    “The Western coalition strikes targeted scientific research centres, several military bases, and the bases of the Republican Guard and Fourth Division in the capital Damascus and around it,” said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
    The US, France, and Britain announced a joint operation against Syria's government, a week after a suspected chemical attack outside the capital Damascus left more than 40 people dead.
    The world leaders announced that the strikes targeted positions linked to the chemical weapons facilities of the Syrian government.
    Moments after the announcement, loud blasts could be heard from the capital and large plumes of smoke emerged from its northern and eastern edges.
    Syrian state media reported the joint operation and said there was preliminary information that a research centre northeast of the capital had been hit.
    Since then, the Kremlin has condemned Western air strikes on Syria where its armed forces are backing President Bashar al-Assad.
    “Russia severely condemns the attack on Syria where Russian military are helping the lawful government in the fight with terrorism,” the Kremlin said in a statement, its first reaction to the strikes.
    Russia also said that is calling an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council — where it is a permanent member — over Western strikes on Syria.
    “Russia is calling an emergency session of the UN Security Council to discuss the aggressive actions of the US and its allies,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
    The US and Europe have both slapped sanctions on the Syrian Scientific Studied and Research Centre for its links to chemical weapons production in Syria.Four RAF Tornados took off from Cyprus in the early hours and struck regime facilities linked to the production and use of chemical weapons.
    The allies were galvanised into military action after Bashar Assad's atrocity against his own people in Douma on Saturday, which killed up to 75 people, including young children.
    The Ministry of Defence confirmed that Storm Shadow cruise missiles were fired at a former missile base fifteen miles west of Homs, where stockpiles of banned substances are believed to have been held. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the missions had been 'highly successful' and degraded Assad's ability to repeat the chemical outrage. 
    The EU, NATO and other allies praised the decision to respond to the use of chemical weapons, while Russia and Iran condemned it.  
    But Mrs May is facing a backlash after defying calls from Opposition parties and some Tories to stage a parliamentary vote before sending UK forces into combat. Jeremy Corbyn branded the strikes 'legally questionable' and again urged a UN investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria - something that has been vetoed by Assad's Russian allies. SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not believe the reprisals would help bring peace.
    However, splits within Labour ranks were laid bare with some MPs breaking cover to support the PM. Mrs May's DUP allies also signalled their backing.  
    In a statement in the early hours, Mrs May said the decision had not been taken 'lightly' and there was 'no practicable alternative to the use of force' to deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
    She said the strikes were in the UK's national interest and had been limited and targeted rather than designed to bring about 'regime change'.  
    She said: 'We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world.' 
    'We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none. 'History teaches us that the international community must defend the global rules and standards that keep us all safe. 
    'That is what our country has always done.  And what we will continue to do.' 
    She added: '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.' 
    The MoD said at 2am British forces joined their allies in a 'precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the regime's use of chemical weapons against its own people'.

    Syria says West's 'brutal, barbaric aggression will fail'

    Syria's government denounced the strikes on its military installations as a “brutal, barbaric aggression” that violated international law.
    “The Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms the brutal American-British-French aggression against Syria, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law,” the foreign ministry said.
    State news agency SANA also reported the attack, but said it was “doomed to fail”.
    Western powers blamed President Bashar al-Assad, but Syria and its ally Russia categorically denied the claims and accused the West of “fabricating” the incident to justify military action.
    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was set to begin its investigation inside the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma on Saturday, just hours after the strikes.
    Syria's foreign ministry said the strikes aimed to block their work.
    “The timing of the aggression coincides with the arrival of the OPCW mission to Syria to investigate the alleged chemical attack in Douma, and mainly aims at hindering the mission's work and preempting its results,” it said in comments carried by state news agency SANA.
    The ministry said it was an “attempt to block the exposure of their lies and fabrications”.
    It said the United States, Britain and France launched around 110 missiles on Syria, but air defences shot most of them down.
    The Russian military also said that Syrian air defence systems intercepted 71 out of 103 cruise missiles that were launched.
    An ally of the Assad regime, Russia reacted with fury at West's strikes on Syria and called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council. In a statement, Kremlin said that it “severely condemns the attack on Syria where Russian military are helping the lawful government in the fight with terrorism”.
    Russia's ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov also warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences”.
    The Iranian government, another Syrian ally, called the attacks a "clear violation of international rules and laws” while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei termed the US President Donald Trump, France's Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Theresa May as “criminals”.
    Three civilians were wounded in the Homs attacks, the Syrian ministry said, but it did not give a toll for Damascus or mention any combatant casualties.
    Lebanese movement Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian regime, sharply condemned the strikes, saying the attackers would not achieve their objectives.
    “America's war against Syria, and against the region's peoples and resistance movement, will not achieve its aims,” the group said in a statement published on its War Media Channel.
    Several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, “destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre,” SANA reported.
    State media published images of a cloud of reddish smoke hanging over the capital and said that air defences were activated to block the attack.
    But it said skies were clear over Aleppo in the north, Hasakeh in the northeast, and Latakia and Tartus along the western coast, where key Syrian and Russian military installations are located.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced a strike on Syria launched by the United States and its allies as an 'act of aggression' that will exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
    In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader says Moscow is calling an emergency meeting of the United Nations' Security Council over the strike launched by the U.S., Britain and France.
    Putin added that the strike had a 'destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.'
    He reaffirmed Russia's view that a purported chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma that prompted the strike was a fake.
    Putin added that Russian military experts who inspected Douma found no trace of the attack. 
    He criticized the U.S. and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog to visit the area.
    A senior Russian military officer has said Russia may consider supplying S-300 missile systems to.
    Putin's comments came as Russia's Ambassador to the United States warned the White House on Friday that military strikes against its ally 'will not be left without consequences' after President Donald Trump ordered the bombing of a multiple targets in Syria.
    'The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard.A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,' Russian envoy Anatoly Antonov said in a statement. 
    'Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.' 
    'Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible,' the ambassador continued. 'The U.S. – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries,' he added. 
    The statement from Antonov was issued just minutes after the President directed a portion of his remarks towards Russian President Vladimir Putin as he delivered an address to the American people announcing the military action against Damascus.

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