Syria's capital has been rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons.
Syria's capital has been rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons. AP Photo - Hassan Ammar

Russia's angry response: 'There will be consequences'

LATEST: RUSSIA has hit back at the United States following a massive air strike on targets in Syria, warning there will be consequences.

The angry response came after the US and allies fired missiles into the Syrian capital in an hour-long strike aimed at chemical weapons operations.

The bombardment was in retaliation for a poison gas attack, that the US President Donald Trump called an "evil and despicable attack" on Syrian civilians.

Russia's ambassador to the United States says there will be consequences for the US-led military strikes, adding that it was not acceptable to insult Russia's president.

"A pre-designed scenario is being implemented," Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said on Twitter.

"Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.

"Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissable," he added. "The US - the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons - has no moral right to blame other countries."

Loud explosions rocked Syria's capital and filled the sky with heavy smoke early Saturday after Mr Trump announced the air strikes in response for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons.

Syrian television reported that air defences responded to the attack. Associated Press reporters saw smoke rising from east Damascus and the sky turned orange.

A huge fire could be seen from a distance to the east. Syrian television reported that a scientific research centre had been hit. Syrian media claimed that air defences hit 13 rockets south of Damascus.

After the attack ceased and the early morning skies went dark once more, vehicles with loudspeakers roamed the streets of Damascus blaring nationalist songs. "Good souls will not be humiliated," Syria's presidency tweeted after air strikes began.

The US military, assisted by forces from the UK and France, launched the strikes targeting chemical weapons operations this morning Australian time to punish President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against his people.

In a live address to the nation, President Trump said the strikes were aimed at deterring chemical weapons use. It comes after a poison gas attack that killed at least 60 people on April 7.

"A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad," Trump said in his address from the White House.

"Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians, this time in the town of Douma near the Syrian capital of Damascus. This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons used by that very terrible regime'" he said.

"The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead."

Mr Trump said he was prepared to "sustain" the assault against Syria.

But that the US did not want an "indefinite presence" in Syria and would only stay until Islamic State was destroyed.

"As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home."

EARLIER: US President Donald Trump has confirmed "precision strikes" against Syria are underway.

The US military, assisted by forces from the UK and France, launched the strikes targeting Syrian chemical weapons operations to punish President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.

In a live address to the nation, President Trump said the strikes were aimed at detering chemical weapons use. It comes after a poison gas attack that killed at least 60 people on April 7.

"A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad," Trump said in his address from the White House.

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House as he confirmed airstrikes were underway.
President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House as he confirmed airstrikes were underway.

Mr Trump said he was prepared to "sustain" the assault against Syria saying President Assad's actions "are not the actions of a man," but "are the crimes of a monster instead".

He said the US did not want an "indefinite presence" in Syria and would only stay until Islamic State was destroyed.

In strong words directed at the countries supporting Syria, Mr Trump said they would be judged by the friends that they kept.

"To Iran and to Russia, I ask: 'What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?'"

Medical workers treating toddlers following a poison gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria.
Medical workers treating toddlers following a poison gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria.

He called them "most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regimen".

Mr Trump said he hoped the US would be friends "one day" with Russia and Iran, before adding: "But maybe not."

As he spoke, Syria's air defence systems swung into action, according to state television reports.

"Syrian air defence blocks American, British, French aggression on Syria," the reports said.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed she had authorised British forces to join "US and French allies" and said their action wasn't about meddling in a civil war or regime change.

"The Syrian regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in cruel and abhorrent way ... this consistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped," she said.

"This is the first time as prime minister that I have had to take the decision to commit our armed forces in combat - and it is not a decision I have taken lightly.

"I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britain's national interest. 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."

ATTACKS BEGIN

As he spoke, Syria's air defence systems swung into action, according to state television reports.

"Syrian air defence blocks American, British, French aggression on Syria," the reports said.

Associated Press reporters in Damascus saw smoke rising from the city's east Damascus early Saturday morning local time.

There have been no reported US, UK or French losses.

According to The Pentagon, there has been some "initial surface to air missile activity" from Syria, but no other retaliation.

PATH TO ATTACK

Last week the President fired off a tweet telling Russia to "Get ready" for missiles fired at Syria, saying they will be "coming, nice and new and 'smart!'"

But on Thursday, Mr Trump wrote that he: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place."

President al-Assad denied responsibility for the horrifying scenes in Douma, near the capital of Damascus.

Amid the mounting tension, Moscow politicians last week warned the US that Russia would view an air strike on Syria as a war crime.

Russia's ambassador to Lebanon said any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted - signalling a potential major confrontation.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week "We call upon ... members of the international community to seriously consider the possible consequences of such accusations, threats and especially action [against Syria]."

The decision by the US to strike marked Mr Trump's second order to attack Syria; he authorised a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Syria's use of sarin gas against civilians.

More to come



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