Russia and Iran have strongly condemned overnight US air strikes on a Syrian base, with the Kremlin calling the action a “violation of international law”. French, Israeli and British officials have welcomed the US military action.
In a statement released early on Friday, the Kremlin denounced the US strikes as an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, said the Russian president believes that the US launched the strikes under a “far-fetched pretext”. Russia has argued that the death of civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday resulted from Syrian forces hitting a rebel chemical arsenal there and not from the regime’s use of banned chemical weapons.
The head of the defence and security committee at the Russian upper house of parliament, Viktor Ozerov, had earlier said that Russia would call for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.
Iran has also strongly condemned US missile strikes against a Syrian airbase, the Students News Agency ISNA quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying on Friday.
“Iran strongly condemns any such unilateral strikes … such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria … and it will complicate the situation in Syria and the region,” ISNA quoted Bahram Qasemi as saying.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the military action, however, saying he “fully supports” the decision. In a statement on Friday Netanyahu said that “in both word and action” US President Donald Trump had “sent a strong and clear message” that “the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated”.
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) April 7, 2017
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the strikes sent a message to the “criminal regime” of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Ayrault was told of the impending strikes by US officials.
“I was told by [US Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson during the night,” Ayrault told Reuters and France Info radio in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott where he is on a diplomatic visit.
“Use of chemical weapons is appalling and should be punished because it is a war crime,” he said, adding that Russia and Iran needed to understand that supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made no sense, and that France was not seeking a confrontation with those two countries.
Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmus, and the British government also welcomed the strikes.
Syrian state television called the US strikes “an act of aggression”. Four soldiers were killed in the strike, including a general, and the base was “almost completely destroyed”, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
‘Vital national security interest’
In a brief televised address delivered hours after the UN Security Council failed to agree on a probe into the apparent chemical attack, US President Donald Trump confirmed the first American targeted strike against Assad’s regime.
Declaring it in America’s “vital national security interest” to prevent the spread of deadly chemical weapons, Trump accused Assad of a “very barbaric attack” in which “even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered.”
“Tonight I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types,” Trump said.
Trump’s visceral reaction to the suspected sarin attack prompted a swift and massive response, with the US firing 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat Airfield at 8:40 pm Eastern Time (0040 GMT), according to officials.
The missiles were fired from the USS Porter and the USS Ross, which belong to the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet and are located in the eastern Mediterranean.
The strike targeted radars, aircraft, air defense systems and other logistical components at the military base south of Homs in central Syria, from where Washington believes Tuesday’s deadly strike was launched.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)