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Trump warns of more attacks as Assad complains to Russia

Sheetal Sukhija - Monday 16th April, 2018

MOSCOW, Russia - A day after Western powers, led by the U.S. and supported by U.K. and France led a wave of strikes which represented the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad’s government in seven years of Syria’s deadly civil war - Assad complained to Russian lawmakers. 

The strikes, which were condemned by both Syria, and its closest ally, Russia, which is helping Assad fight rebel forces opposed to his rule, took place on Friday

The military strikes came a week after a gas attack in the rebel-held Douma left about 40 people dead and several others injured, leading to U.S. and other countries blaming the attack on the Syrian government. 

Local reports in Syria confirmed that there were large explosions at sites near Damascus and in the countryside of Homs.

Further, the Syrian state television said that government air defense systems were responding to “the American aggression.”

Further, the report broadcast a video of missiles being fired into the night sky. 

Officials in Syria claimed that a total of 13 missiles had been shot down by Syrian air defenses near Al-Kiswa, a town south of Damascus.

Meanwhile, Trump announced the military strike from the White House and said that the U.S. was prepared to sustain its response.

He added that the strike was carried out in conjunction with the U.K. and France, “until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis elaborated that the military coalition had targeted three chemical weapons facilities operated by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. 

Some reports quoted the Free Syrian Army spokesperson as saying that the number of sites that struck was higher.

Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the U.S. had warned Russia that its aircraft were in Syrian airspace prior to the attack, using their usual military-to-military deconfliction line.

Trump singled out Russia and Iran as “most responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing the criminal Assad regime.”

He said, “To Iran and to Russia I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children? The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by supporting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.”

He added, “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, some day, we’ll get along with Russia and maybe even Iran, but maybe not.”

Hailing the strikes early on Saturday, Trump tweeted "perfectly executed.”

He also thanked the U.K. and France saying, “A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

However, his use of the phrase "Mission Accomplished" drew a warning from President George W Bush's ex-press secretary Ari Fleischer, who wrote on Twitter, “Um...I would have recommended ending this tweet with not those two words.”

Trump also warned Syria's government the U.S. is "locked and loaded" to strike again if it carries out chemical attacks.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has blamed Russian obstruction for the need to launch military strikes, saying they left "no practicable alternative.”

Meanwhile, on Sunday, at a briefing, Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie listed the three targets that had been struck, saying the attacks had "set the Syrian chemical weapons programme back years.”

Gen McKenzie added that about 40 Syrian defence missiles were fired, mostly after the targets were hit, and none successfully engaged planes or missiles.

However, in a previous Russian defence ministry briefing, officials said that 103 cruise missiles had been launched and 71 were shot down by Syrian systems.

Both the Russians and the U.S. said there were no reported casualties. 

According to Syria, which has denied any chemical use, has said that the attack was fabricated by rebels and that three people were hurt near Homs.

A UN Security Council vote brought by Russia, to condemn the strikes was rejected and and only China and Bolivia voted in favour of the Russian resolution.

Vasily Nebenzia, Russia's UN envoy, read out a quote from President Vladimir Putin accusing the U.S., U.K. and France of "cynical disdain" in acting without waiting for the OPCW's findings.

Following the failure of Russia’s motion, the U.S., U.K. and France circulated a new draft resolution to UN Security Council members.

The draft called for an independent investigation into Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons even though inspectors from the independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had already been dispatched to Damascus and are expected to visit Douma this weekend.

The Western-drafted resolution is calling for the OPCW to release their report within 30 days.

On Sunday, Russian lawmaker Dmitry Sablin quoted Assad as saying, "Yesterday we saw American aggression. And we were able to repel it with Soviet missiles from the 70s.”

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