What we know about the military strikes on Syria
WASHINGTON — The U.S., Britain and France coordinated to launch strikes against targets within Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Who was involved?
At a Pentagon briefing Friday, U.S. officials described the strikes as a joint operation consisting of British, American and French forces.
“Today the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality,” said President Donald Trump, during a separate announcement from the White House, Friday.
Shortly after Trump’s statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement saying she had “authorized British armed forces to conduct coordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use.”
A statement released by French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said that a “red line set by France in May 2017 has been crossed. So, I ordered the French armed forces to intervene tonight, as part of an international operation in coalition with the United States of America and the United Kingdom and directed against the clandestine chemical arsenal of the Syrian regime.”
What was hit?
In announcing the strikes Friday, Trump said he had ordered "precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities" of the Syrian regime.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters three sites were targeted:
- A scientific research center in Damascus.
- A chemical weapons storage facility, located west of Homs.
- A chemical weapons equipment storage facility and command post near Homs.
Syrian state TV said missiles targeting Homs were intercepted and did not cause damage, though CNN has been unable to verify this report.
What were the casualties?
No information has yet emerged regarding the number of casualties. Witnesses on the ground in Damascus reported hearing explosions in the Syrian capital, where more than a million people live.
Are the strikes over?
Trump said the U.S. was "prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents," however, he maintained that "America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria."
At a Pentagon briefing, Dunford said "this wave of airstrikes is over" but defense officials added they are prepared for a sustained campaign until the Syrian regime ceases its alleged use of chemical weapons.
What weapons were involved?
Military and defense officials told CNN that at least one U.S. Navy warship based in the Red Sea participated in Friday's strikes, as well as B-1 bombers.
A statement from the British Ministry of Defense said that four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4's were used in the strikes, launching Storm Shadow missiles at a "former missile base -- some 15 miles west of Homs."
Was Russia warned?
Dunford said the U.S. "specifically identified" targets to "mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved."
He added normal communication lines were used in the run-up to the strike to ensure clearance of airspace, but said targets were not coordinated with the Russians.
Have Syria and Russia responded?
In a statement following the strikes, Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the U.S., said Moscow's "warnings have been left unheard."
"We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences," he said. "Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible. The U.S. -- the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons -- has no moral right to blame other countries."
In a statement posted on Facebook, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said "After this statement the American and other Western mass media should understand their responsibility in what is happening."
What have we learned about the Douma attack?
More than 70 people in Syria's rebel-held town of Douma reportedly died while sheltering in basements -- 43 off whom showed symptoms consistent with exposure to "highly toxic chemicals," according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO, citing reports from health partners on the ground, also said that about 500 people went to the hospital showing signs of exposure to "toxic chemicals" in Douma.
The Syrian government and Russia, its key ally, have vehemently denied involvement and accused rebels in Douma of fabricating the chemical attack claims.
A team of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were on route to the site of the alleged attack before the strikes were launched against Damascus and Homs.