Assad vows to ‘crush’ his enemies after night of US-led airstrikes
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Assad vows to ‘crush’ his enemies after night of US-led airstrikes

Syrian leader gets support from Iran, Hezbollah after US, UK, France fire over 100 missiles at sites linked to his chemical weapons program

Syrians wave the national flag and wave portraits of President Bashar al-Assad as they gather in Aleppo's Saadallah al-Jabiri square on April 14, 2018, to condemn the strikes carried out by the United States, Britain and France against the Syrian regime. (AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIAN)
Syrians wave the national flag and wave portraits of President Bashar al-Assad as they gather in Aleppo's Saadallah al-Jabiri square on April 14, 2018, to condemn the strikes carried out by the United States, Britain and France against the Syrian regime. (AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIAN)

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday responded defiantly to overnight Western airstrikes, vowing that they would only make him more determined to crush his enemies.

“This aggression will only make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country,” he said in comments published by his office.

Assad has denied ever using chemical weapons and regularly denounces his opponents as “terrorists.”

Reuters reported that the comments were made in a conversation with ally, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani told Assad that Iran would continue to stand by Syria, “expressing his confidence that this aggression would not weaken the determination of the Syrian people in its war against terrorism,” Reuters reported.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a joint press conference with the leaders of Turkey and Russia as part of a tripartite summit on Syria, in Ankara, on April 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)

Earlier Syria was joined by Iran and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in condemning the joint US, French, and British strikes on Damascus’ chemical weapons facilities.

Syria’s government on Saturday denounced Western strikes on its military installations as a “brutal, barbaric aggression” that violated international law.

The US, France, and Britain launched a volley of strikes Saturday morning on positions around the capital Damascus and the central city of Homs.

“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.

The Damascus sky lights up missile fire as the US launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital early Saturday, April 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian regime, sharply condemned the strikes, saying they 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.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced US President Donald Trump, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Britain’s Theresa May after they launched strikes Saturday against the Syrian regime, branding them “criminals.”

“The attack this morning against Syria is a crime,” Khamenei said in remarks published on his Telegram channel. “The American president, the French president, and the British prime minister are criminals.”

Meanwhile Rouhani warned the attack would lead to destruction in the Middle East, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

“Such attacks will have no result but more destruction … the Americans want to justify their presence in the region by such attacks,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by Tasnim, in remarks translated by the Reuters.

The joint operation came one week after a suspected chemical attack on an opposition-controlled town outside Damascus left more than 40 people dead.

This image shows a medical worker giving toddlers oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, Sunday, April 8, 2018. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

Western powers blamed 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 defenses shot most of them down.

Three civilians were wounded in the Homs attacks, the ministry said, but it did not give a toll for Damascus or mention any combatant casualties.

Several missiles hit a research center in Barzeh, north of Damascus, “destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training center,” SANA reported.

State media published images of a cloud of reddish smoke hanging over the capital and said that air defenses 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.

TOI Staff contributed to this report

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