BEIRUT, Lebanon — Dozens of Syrian students on Saturday gathered outside the offices of the United Nations in Damascus to protest a US missile attack on an air base.
The protesters held banners and chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
One of the banners they carried read: “The Iraqi scenario will not be repeated in Syria.” They were referring to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq after Washington accused Saddam Hussein of hiding weapons of mass destruction — a belief that later turned out to be incorrect.
University student Ashraf Fadel said he came to denounce “the unjust American aggression against Syria.” He added that the UN was “created to support America instead of serving the wronged people.”
Tensions skyrocketed this week after an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government killed dozens of people.
— Hamza sulyman (@hamza_780) April 8, 2017
The US responded early Friday by launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base, a dramatic escalation lauded by Sunni states, rebels and Israel but condemned by Russia, China and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Ordered by US President Donald Trump, the strike came as retaliation for the deadly chemical weapons attack last week in the northern Syrian province of Idlib that left at least 86 people dead, including 27 children, and allegedly employed the nerve agent sarin. Footage of people and children choking on the gas prompted outrage across the globe.
The US and other Western powers have blamed the Assad regime for the attack, but Damascus has denied it used chemical weapons.
In a statement released about three hours after the US strike, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the American move, as did Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the Israeli military.
The Israel Defense Forces said Friday it was informed by the US ahead of the military strike and that it expressed its support for the operation during the talks.
Later, the Prime Minister’s Office said US Vice President Mike Pence called Netanyahu and “thanked him – on behalf of US President Donald Trump – for Israel’s strong support for the American action in Syria.”
Pence also updated Netanyahu “on the details of the action and its results,” the statement said, adding that the prime minister “reiterated the need to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons.”
The vice president and the prime minister also “emphasized the strength of the alliance between Israel and the US.”
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in Syria, which has some 400,000 lives. But over the past year, Israel has carried out numerous airstrikes on Syrian territory, most of which were reportedly targeting Hezbollah weapons convoys.
In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for the Lebanon-based terror group, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime.