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article imageSyria strikes: what we know

By AFP     Apr 14, 2018 in World

The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early Saturday in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week.

Here is what we know so far about the strikes:

- Three targets -

The strikes targeted three facilities related to Syria's "chemical weapons infrastructure," officials said, in what the US billed as a warning against Syria's Bashar al-Assad employing such weapons in the future -- a warning he has been accused of flouting in the past.

Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the US military's Joint Staff, said the three facilities were the Barzeh research and development center on the outskirts of Damascus, a chemical weapons facility located outside Homs, and a nearby bunker facility.

Western strikes in Syria
Western strikes in Syria

McKenzie said the targets were all totally destroyed, and the strikes had "significantly crippled Assad's ability to produce" chemical weapons.

US General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the facility outside Homs "was the primary location of Syrian sarin" -- a deadly gas Assad's regime was accused of using in a strike last year.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said all the targets were linked to the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which the US has accused of weaponizing sarin.

The Pentagon says there are no plans for further operations and indicated the operation took pains to avoid hitting any military assets of Russia, which supports Assad's regime.

Moscow said none of the strikes hit areas around its Hmeimim air base and naval facility in Tartus.

- Who used what -

A Tomahawk missile leaves a US warship cruiser on Saturday
A Tomahawk missile leaves a US warship cruiser on Saturday
Matthew DANIELS, US Department of Defense/AFP

US, British and French naval and air assets took part in the pre-dawn strikes that saw 105 missiles launched.

America fired 85 missiles, France 12 and Britain eight.

The US Tomahawk missiles came in part from the Red Sea, where the USS Monterey and the USS Laboon were located.

Additionally, the USS Higgins destroyer fired Tomahawks from the Gulf, and the USS John Warner submarine launched them from the eastern Mediterranean.

In the air, two US B-1 bombers accompanied by fighters launched 19 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs).

On the French side of the mission, the Languedoc, a Fremm multi-mission frigate in the Mediterranean, fired missiles along with Rafale fighter jets.

British Tornado GR4
British Tornado GR4
William ICKES, AFP

The British meanwhile fired Storm Shadow missiles from a combination of Tornados and Typhoons.

The strike was about twice the size of a US operation against an Assad air base last year, in which 59 Tomahawk missiles were fired.

The Russian military said the allies had fired a total of 103 cruise missiles, but that Syrian air defense systems managed to intercept 71 of them.

McKenzie said no missiles were intercepted and countered that "the Syrian response was remarkably ineffective in all domains."

Russia did not fire surface-to-air missiles in response to the attacks, despite a previous threat to do so, the US said.

- 'No victims' -

The Observatory monitor said the sites targeted had been evacuated days ago and that no personnel or "valuable weapons stocks" were left.

Syrian state media reported only three people injured, while Russia's defense ministry said there were "no victims" among Syrian civilians and military personnel.

McKenzie said there were no known civilian casualties, but noted Syria had fired about 40 unguided surface-to-air missiles, most of which didn't launch until after the allied strike was over.

These missiles may have come down in populated areas, he cautioned.

Russia's foreign ministry said the strikes came as Syria -- which has been wracked by seven years of civil war -- had "a chance of a peaceful future," and Moscow's ambassador to Washington warned of unspecified "consequences."

The strikes were a response to reports that Damascus released toxic gas on the town of Douma on April 7, killing more than 40 people -- claims Syria's regime and its Russian ally have dismissed as "fabrications."

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