In Brief

Syria strike: UK, US and France punish chemical attack

Theresa May says the West ‘cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised’

Britain, France and the US attacked Syrian targets early this morning, seeking to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians last weekend.

The Ministry of Defence said four Tornado jets fired missiles at a military site near the city of Homs, which was believed to be storing precursor materials for chemical weapons. US Tomahawk missiles struck another target in Homs, and one near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Theresa May said she had authorised a “limited and targeted strike” that was “not about intervening in a civil war” and “not about regime change”.

Referring to the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last month, she said: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised - within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world.”

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the strikes were “legally questionable”.

Last night’s wave of strikes “is the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad's government by Western powers in seven years of Syria's civil war,” says the BBC.

It involved about twice the fire-power of last year’s US cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase, prompted by a previous chemical attack.

“Great care was taken to avoid Russian or Iranian personnel or military hardware,” says The Times, but Moscow was not notified of the strikes before they began. Before last year’s attack, Washington gave the Russian government advance warning.

Nevertheless, says The New York Times, “the strikes risked pulling the United States deeper into the complex, multisided war in Syria and raised the possibility of confrontation with Russia and Iran.”

The Russian ambassador to the US said last night that the attack “will not be left without consequences”.

Donald Trump accused Russia of associating itself “with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children” and raised the prospect of more strikes.

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” he said.

But the Pentagon described the operation as a “one-time shot”.

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