DAMASCUS — Syrian state media slammed Western strikes on Saturday as illegal and “doomed to fail,” after the US, France, and Britain launched a joint operation against the Damascus government.
“The aggression is a flagrant violation of international law, a breach of the international community’s will, and it is doomed to fail,” said state news agency SANA.
Huge blasts were reported around Damascus early on Saturday, moments after the US, France, and Britain announced they were striking Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities.
AFP’s correspondent in Damascus said several consecutive blasts were heard at 4:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT), followed by the sound of airplanes overhead. Smoke could be seen emerging from the northern and eastern edges of the capital.
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.
SANA reported the joint operation hit a research center northeast of the capital as well as other military installations around Damascus, but said missiles targeting army depots in Homs had been intercepted.
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.
The joint operation came one week after a suspected chemical attack outside Damascus left more than 40 people dead.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “The Western coalition strikes targeted scientific research centers, several military bases, and the bases of the Republican Guard and Fourth Division in the capital Damascus and around it.”
Syrian media claimed that air defenses hit 13 rockets south of Damascus. After the attack ceased and the early morning skies went dark once more, vehicles with loudspeakers roamed the streets of Damascus blaring nationalist songs.
The Syrian presidency tweeted that “Good souls will not be humiliated” after the airstrikes.
US President Donald Trump announced late Friday that a joint US-British-French operation had been launched on Syria, targeting the “criminal” regime of Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians and to deter him from doing it again.
“A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now under way. We thank them both. This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.”
General Joseph Dunford, Washington’s top general, said the precision strikes hit a scientific research center near Damascus, a storage facility and command post also near the capital and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs. He said Syrian surface to air missile batteries had attempted to fire back, but there were no initial reports of any allied losses.
Trump said the US was prepared to “sustain” pressure on Assad until he ends what the president called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons.
“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead,” Trump said.
The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump’s second order to attack Syria; he authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad’s use of sarin gas against civilians.
Trump chastised Syria’s two main allies, Russia and Iran, for their roles in supporting “murderous dictators,” and noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had guaranteed a 2013 international agreement for Assad to get rid of all of his chemical weapons. He called on Moscow to change course and join the West in seeking a more responsible regime in Damascus.
At the Pentagon, Mattis said the strike was “harder” on the Syrian regime than the 2017 strike and targeted “Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure.” He described it as a “a one-time shot,” adding, “I believe it has sent a very strong message.”
Mattis said there were “no reports of losses” on the part of US and allied forces participating in the strike.