By DailyNews Foreign Correspondent
- Satellite imagery taken before and after the airstrikes on Saturday show buildings in Syria reduced to rubble
- The three sites included a bunker and storage facility outside Homs, the Shinshar Chemical Weapons Facility
- The third and main target was the Barzah research facility in northern Damascus, which was hit by 76 missiles
- Pentagon officials said the airstrikes were ‘precise, overwhelming and effective’ at a briefing on Saturday
- Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of ‘consequences’ and said said there was no evidence of the attack
- President Donald Trump has vowed to carry out further strikes if Assad crosses the chemical ‘red line’ again
- UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson defended Britain’s decision to join the strikes and stand up to ‘barbarism’
- Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn questioned their legality but the UK government said it was a humanitarian action
New satellite images show how US-led air strikes completely obliterated Syrias main chemical weapon centre – but left its surroundings virtually untouched.
The images reveal the precision with which the US, UK and France fired 76 missiles to land exactly on the Barzah Research and Development centre in northern Damascus in the early hours of Saturday.
Barzah was one of three key chemical weapon sites flattened by coordinated military action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his brutal chemical weapons attack that killed 75 of his own people.
A total of 105 missiles landed within just two minutes after US President Trump backed by UK Prime Minister May and French President Macron commanded the offensive.
But British forces were left looking second-rate after Mr Macron made the most of France’s superior contribution to the bombings.
New before (left) and after (right) images reveal the precision with which the US, UK and France fired missiles to land exactly on the Barzah Research and Development centre in northern Damascus, which is believed to be at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons network
The RAF fired just eight missiles, compared to their French counterpart’s 12. The French Navy launched three cruise missiles from Freigate, while the Royal Navy were not involved at all.
Mr Macron and his officials were keen to promote their role in the strikes on social media, with Whitehall sources worried the French leader is trying to position himself as Trump’s biggest ally in Europe.
The attack saw 85 US missiles fired from three cruise ships, with Trump taking to Twitter afterwards to say: ‘Mission accomplished!’
The second target in the joint campaign was the Hinshar Chemical Weapons Storage Facility. It was destroyed by 22 weapons including Scalp and Storm Shadows and three Naval cruise missiles. The third target, the Hinshar CW Bunker, was hit by seven Scalp missiles.
In the aftermath of the bombings the US are set to impose further sanctions on Russia to put pressure on its continued support of the Syrian regime.
Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said measures to be imposed on Monday will send a message to Russia after it blocked six UN attempts to investigate its use of chemical weapons.
In Washington President Donald Trump stood by his comments that the strikes he commanded were a ‘mission accomplished’ after he was slated for repeating George W Bush’s controversial use of the phrase during the Iraq war.
Elsewhere, Mr Macron insisted the allied forces had not ‘declared war’ on Syria.
He told a French TV station: ‘We have not declared war on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.’ During the two-hour interview he also claimed he had ‘convinced’ Trump to maintain a military presence in Syria after the US leader threatened to pull out of the country entirely.
It emerged that Trump called Mr Macron twice before he shared his intention to strike Syria in a Twitter post. But he failed to call UK Prime Minister Theresa May in the early stages of the operation, giving the French leader the opportunity to claim France is America’s leading ally in Europe.
Vladimir Putin has warned of ‘consequences’ after the US, UK and France co-ordinated the military action, condemning Saturday’s strikes as an ‘act of aggression’ that will worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and have a ‘destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.
But Trump has vowed to carry out further airstrikes on Syria if the regime dares to use chemical weapons again, while UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson defended Britain’s decision to stand up to ‘barbarism’ amid criticism of Mrs May for acting without a vote in the House of Commons.
Putin criticised Washington and its allies for attacking without waiting for inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog group to visit Douma, just outside Damascus, saying Russian military experts had found no trace of the attack.
A Russian motion in the UN Security Council to condemn the airstrikes was rejected with only China and Bolivia joining Russia to vote in favour, as U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley promised the country was ready for another strike if Assad crossed the chemical weapons ‘red line’ in the future.
Assad continues to deny using chemical weapons, telling visiting Russian politicians yesterday that Western air strikes against his country were accompanied by a campaign of “lies” and misinformation at the UN.
Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: ‘A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.’
Scores of fast jets, fighters and destroyers fired at three targets in Syria on Saturday morning in retaliation for President Assad’s chemical weapons attack on the rebel enclave of Douma on April 7.
Boris Johnson said failure to response to Bashar Assad’s use of illegal chemical weapons against his own people would have undermined ‘civilised values’.
He says ‘so far, thank heavens, the Assad regime has not been so foolish to launch another chemical weapons attack,’ adding that Britain and its allies ‘would study what the options were’ in the event of another attack.
But amid fears of revenge attacks by Russia and criticism of Theresa May for acting without a Commons vote, Mr Johnson stressed there was no intention of getting more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war.
Concerns have been raised that a cyber backlash could see vital services including water supplies, gas networks, banks, hospitals and air traffic control affected.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, Mr Johnson said: ‘You have to take every possible precaution, and when you look at what Russia has done, not just in this country, in Salisbury, attacks on TV stations, on the democratic processes, on critical national infrastructure – of course we have to be very, very cautious indeed.’
The second site outside of Homs was the Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Bunker. It was the smallest and was wiped out by seven missiles
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the UK’s air strikes ‘legally questionable’, forcing the Government to publish detailed legal advice justifying the bombings. Yesterday Mr Corbyn demanded a ‘war powers’ law to ban the Prime Minister from taking military action without a Commons vote.
The official legal advice claimed ‘the UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering’. Mrs May will face MPs tomorrow.
Asked if there were any circumstances in which he would back air strikes in Syria, Mr Corbyn replied: ‘I can only countenance involvement in Syria if there is a UN authority behind it.
‘If we could get to a process in the UN where you get to a ceasefire, you get to a political solution, you then may well get to a situation where there could be a UN force established to enforce that ceasefire. ‘That surely would save a lot of lives,’ he told the Andrew Marr Show.
Some 75 people, including children, are said to have died when the Syrian regime used chlorine gas and another nerve agent in Douma last Saturday.
Aid workers told how chlorine could be smelled in the air and victims were found with foam in their mouth and with burning eyes.
Pope Francis told the faithful in St. Peter’s Square that he is `’deeply disturbed’ by the international community’s failure to come up with a common response to the crisis in Syria and other parts of the world.
‘Despite the tools available to the international community, it is difficult to agree on a common action toward peace in Syria or other regions of the world,’ the Pope told a crowd of 30,000 after his traditional Sunday blessing.
Barzah Research Facility in northern Damascus was the main target of the attack. A total of 76 missiles pummeled this site alone. Smoke still lingered well after the attack that happened in the early morning darkness of 4am
At a press conference in Washington DC on Saturday morning, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie gave a detailed break-down of the 105 missiles launched, saying: ‘This is going to set the program back for years. We attacked the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons program.’
He also rejected the Syrian media’s claim that Assad’s missile defense systems took down 71 of the missiles launched, revealing that none were compromised and that they were only fired once the coordinated attack was over. Russia also claimed missiles had been intercepted.
Three civilians were injured but there have been no confirmed fatalities. On Saturday, the General said that if any deaths are reported they may well have been the result of Assad’s counter fire.
‘Syria shot 40 large missiles into the air using ballistic trajectory, without guidance. When we shoot iron into the air without guidance, it’s going to come down somewhere,’ he said.