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US missile launches; The state of Homs

US missile attack on Syria ends US-Russian cooperation

The US has attacked a Syrian air base with about 60 missiles in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack in Idlib, US officials say, but Russian President Putin “regards the strikes as aggression against a sovereign nation”.

Published: April 7, 2017, 10:22 am

    Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president believes the strikes were carried out “in violation of international law, and also under an invented, far-fetched pretext.”

    Peskov pointed out that “the Syrian army doesn’t have chemical weapons,” saying this had been “observed and confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a specialised UN unit.”

    Putin sees the US missile strike on Syria as an attempt to distract attention from civilian casualties in Iraq inflicted by the US, Peskov added. Syrian state TV also described the US missile attack on Friday morning as “American aggression”.

    “This step deals significant damage to US-Russian ties, which are already in a deplorable state,” Peskov said.

    Jihadists attacked the Syrian armed forces at the same time and in the same area, an informed source told Sputnik on Friday.

    The attack has put an end to hopes for Russia-US cooperation in Syria, says Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the Kremlin-controlled upper house of parliament. On his Facebook page he said the anti-terror coalition has been “put to rest without even being born”.

    Kosachev added that “it’s a pity,” suggesting that Trump had been pressured to act by the Pentagon. While “Russian cruise missiles strike the terrorists, US missiles strike Syrian government forces who are spearheading the fight against the terrorists.”

    French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party, condemned the US missile attack in the strongest terms.

    “What happened in Syria is terrible, and I strongly condemn this,” Le Pen said, adding that the West should have “waited for the results of an international investigation [into the use of chemical weapons in Idlib] before carrying out strikes on Syria.”

    “We should allow democracy and the Syrian people to speak out. It’s they who should choose their leader,” Le Pen noted.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Kremlin is suspending a memorandum with the US to exchange information about their flights over Syria, the Associated press reported.

    The Tomahawk missiles were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, targeting the airfield in Homs which is controlled by the Syrian government. ISIS took advantage of the US missile strike to try to seize oil areas near Palmyra, but failed, a local governor told RT.

    US president Trump said he had ordered a “targeted military strike on an airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched”. The US missiles destroyed their targets, including Syrian aircraft and fuel stations.

    The US missile attack on central Syria has killed six and caused extensive damage, with the aggression undermining Damascus’ counter terrorism operations, the Syrian government said.

    US Senator Rand Paul said Thursday that President Trump needed congressional authorisation for military action in Syria.

    “While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked,” Paul said in a statement shortly after reports of the US attack.

    “The President needs congressional authorisation for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate,” Paul said. “Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different.”

    Trump has changed his mind on Syria and described the strike on Syria as being in the “vital national security interests of the US to prevent and deter the spread and use of chemical weapons”.

    “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically.

    “As a result the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise, threatening the US and its allies.”

    The Syrian government has denied involvement in the Idlib attack and the Russian government had warned against apportioning blame until a full investigation has been carried out.

    On Thursday, US officials confirmed that the Assad regime used sarin gas in that attack and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Assad should no longer have a role in governing Syria.

    Tillerson said, Syria has not given up its chemical weapons stockpile. “Clearly, Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment” to supervise the surrender of those chemical weapons, the secretary of state said.

    “Either Russia has been complicit or simply incompetent in its ability to deliver,” Tillerson added.

    A Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told AP: “US military planners took precautions to minimise risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield”.

    But Al Masdar News reported that Russians were present at the airbase when it was attacked. At least 15 fighter jets have been damaged or destroyed and one fighter pilot was killed – while several others were wounded.

    NATO’s chief was warned of the missile strikes in Syria. Jens Stoltenberg’s office said Friday that “we can confirm that NATO Secretary-General was informed by the US Secretary of Defense prior to the strikes.”

    But it said “we refer you to the US authorities regarding the strikes in Syria” for comment.

    Turkey, a NATO member, welcomed the US attack on Syria, saying it was an “important and meaningful” development but called for a continued tough stance against President Bashar Assad that would render him “no longer able to harm his people.”

    Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus was ostensibly briefed on the attack. He said in a live television interview on Friday: “It is imperative that the Assad regime is fully punished by the international community.”

    “We see the (air strikes) as positive, but we believe that this should be completed,” Kurtulmus said. “The Assad regime’s barbarism must immediately be stopped.”

    Israel too welcomed the US attack. Israeli ambassador Danny Danon told Channel 10 TV it also sent a message to Iran and North Korea. Israel’s military was notified ahead of the strike.

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