The Pentagon said Saturday that a joint US-British-French operation against Syria’s regime had “successfully hit every target,” countering assertions from Russia that dozens of missiles were intercepted.
“We do not seek conflict in Syria, but we cannot allow such grievous violations of international law,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters.
“We successfully hit every target,” she said. “The strikes were justified, legitimate, and proportionate.”
Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, also at the briefing, said three sites that are “fundamental components of the regime’s chemical weapons infrastructure” were struck.
The operation was “precise, overwhelming, and effective,” he said, adding it will set their chemical weapons program back “for years.”
McKenzie said that none “of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses.”
The Russian Defense Ministry had said in a statement quoted by RIA Novosti news agency that “a significant number” of “more than 100 cruise missiles and air-to-land missiles […] fired by the US, Britain, and France from the sea and air at Syrian military and civilian targets,” were shot down by Syrian air defenses.
Syria’s air defenses “were made in the USSR more than 30 years ago,” the ministry said. Russian air defenses based in Syria were not used, the ministry said.
Syria made similar claims.
A Syrian military statement said the US, Britain, and France fired 110 missiles during a joint attack on targets in Damascus and outside.
Brig. Gen. Ali Mayhoub, who read the statement on Syrian TV, said “our air defenses effectively shot down most of them.” He says one of the missiles hit the Scientific Research Center in Barzeh near Damascus, damaging a building. In Homs, one of the missiles was derailed injuring three people, he said.
Mayhoub said the attacks “will not deter” the Syrian military from its ongoing war to eradicate “armed terrorists” from Syrian territory.
Joseph Dunford, Washington’s top general, said the strikes hit three targets near Damascus — a scientific research center, a storage facility, and a command post — and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs.
Syrian surface to air missile batteries had attempted to fire back, but there were no initial reports of allied losses, he added.
Russia said that none of the Western strikes in Syria had hit areas covered by Russia’s air defenses around its air base and naval facility in Tartus.
The Russian military said the missiles were fired from US ships in the Red Sea as well as from tactical aircraft above the Mediterranean and by US strategic bombers from near the Al-Tanf base.
France said it fired cruise missiles from frigates in the Mediterranean and deployed fighter jets from home bases as part of its strikes on Syria.
Speaking at the presidential palace, Defense Minister Florence Parly said “these different assets fired cruise missiles in a perfectly coordinated way… closely synchronized with our American and British allies.”
Western air strikes on Syria overnight targeted “the main research center” for chemical weapons and two production sites, Parly said.
“It’s the capacity to develop and produce chemical weapons that has been hit,” she said in a statement at the presidential palace.
“The goal is simple: to stop the regime from using chemical weapons again,” she added.
British jets have fired missiles at a Syrian military facility near Homs suspected of storing chemical weapon ingredients, Britain’s defense ministry said.
Britain’s defense ministry said in a statement that four British Tornado jets had fired Storm Shadow missiles at the base 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Homs at 0100 GMT (4:00 IDT).
The ministry said the facility was “a former missile base… where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors.”
“Initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack,” it said.
“Very careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximize the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimize any risks of contamination to the surrounding area.
“The facility which was struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk,” it added.
TOI Staff contributed to this report