Moscow has warned the US it was on the brink of clashing with Russia as Donald Trump’s decision to bomb an airbase in Syria stepped up tensions between the two powers.
President Trump launched the attack in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians in Idlib in which at least 27 children were among dozens reportedly killed.
Mr Trump stated that President Assad had “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and even beautiful babies”.
Around 60 Tomahawk missiles struck the Shayrat air base south-east of Homs – a small installation with two runways, where aircraft often take off to bomb targets in northern and central Syria.
Syrian state media has claimed that seven people, including four children, were killed in the strike.
Responding to the attack, the Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said the airstrikes had “completely ruined relations” between the two countries which would only serve to benefit terrorists.
He said the bombing had put the US “on the verge of a military clash with Russia”.
“The Trump administration proved that it will fiercely fight the legitimate Syrian government, in a tough contradiction with international law and without UN approval,” he said in a statement on Facebook. in violation of its own procedures stipulating that the Congress must first be notified of any military operation unrelated to aggression against the US. On the verge of a military clash with Russia.
The US has responded by stating it had warned Russia one hour before it fired the missiles.
Syria continues to deny being responsible for the chemical attack in Idlib earlier this week. Pictures of dead children and survivors foaming at the mouth, thrust the conflict back into the public gaze.
And President Assad has responded by stating that the strike will only increase his onslaught against the people the regime describes as insurgents:
“This aggression has increased Syria’s resolve to hit those terrorist agents, to continue to crush them, and to raise the pace of action to that end wherever they area,” a statement said.
Defending his decision to launch the strike, Mr Trump said in a statement: ‘Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.’
Russia has condemned the move as “aggression” and suspended crucial coordination with Washington in Syria’s congested skies.
A spokesperson for PResident Putin stated that the attack violated international law in a move that will damage relations between the two powers.
The Russian Defence Ministry has also said it plans to bolster its anti-aircraft defences in Syria against enemy planes.
Moscow has also diverted the navy’s Admiral Grigorovich frigate to the Mediterranean, which means it will now position itself between Syria and where the US ships – the USS Ross and USS Porter- fired the missiles in the early hours of Friday.
However, other world leaders rallied around the United States after the attack, which marks the first time the US has directly targeted President Assad’s forces.
It was condemned by his allies in Russia and Iran but welcomed by the Syrian opposition and its supporters, who expressed hope it signalled a turning point in the devastating six-year civil war.
The UK, Australia, Israel, Japan and New Zealand have given their support to President Trump’s decision.
Eyewitness accounts have reported a scene of ‘total devastation’ following Donald Trump’s airstrikes on an airbase in Syria.
A Syrian citizen close to Shoayrat told BBC News producer Riam Dalati: ‘My cousin just texted me from the airfield.
‘He went to check on his mates. It’s total devastation.
‘Cousin says “all jets gone. Airfield taken out of service. Can’t find any of his mates yet.'”
The sudden move by the U.S. marks a complete U-turn for President Trump, who had previously warned against American involvement in the complex and violent conflict.
Only days earlier it was clear US policy was that President Assad didn’t need to be removed for an end to a brutal six-year civil war.
Explaining the abrupt change in direction, Mr Trump said that his country has a ‘vital national security interest’ in stopping the proliferation of the kinds of chemical weapons the Syrian government used against its citizens earlier this week.
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed this morning that the British government ‘fully supports’ the actions taken by the U.S.
The UK government said the move was ‘an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the US missile attack, saying it “risks escalating the war in Syria still further”.
Mr Corbyn warned that US President Donald Trump’s decision to take military action could further intensify a conflict that has already left hundreds of thousands of people dead.
However, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson called the attacks “a direct and proportionate response to a clear violation of international law”.
He told the Birmingham Mail: “Indiscriminate chemical weapons attacks on civilians can never be tolerated and must have consequences.
“It’s vital that the United States is now clear about its intentions and that the whole international community works towards a political settlement in Syria.”
Donald Trump’s statement on the missile attack in full:
‘My fellow Americans.
‘On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.
‘Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
‘Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.
‘It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
‘There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.
‘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 United States and its allies.
‘Tonight, I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.
‘We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed.
‘And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.
‘Goodnight. And God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.’