United Kingdom joins Syria air strikes in response to chemical attack

Fighter jets were seen taking off from a British Royal Air Force base in Cyprus early on Saturday

Fighter jets were seen taking off from a British Royal Air Force base in Cyprus early on Saturday

British jets fired missiles at a Syrian military base suspected of holding chemical weapons ingredients on Saturday in Britain's first military action against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Britain's defense ministry said initial indications were that the precision weapons and meticulous target planning had "resulted in a successful attack".

At least six loud explosions were heard in Damascus, and smoke was seen rising over the city even while Trump delivered his remarks.

"We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this", the prime minister said.

She said that at an emergency cabinet meeting in London on Thursday "we agreed that it was both right and legal to take military action" after hearing legal advice. The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20% of the Syrian airforce.

He said: "The goal of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons".

Russia, which intervened in the war in 2015 to back Assad, has denied there was a chemical attack and has accused Britain of helping to stage the Douma incident to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

When asked if Syria's Assad could remain leader as long as he refrained from further use of chemical weapons, May said: "This was about, as I have said and you have recognized, this was specifically about the use of chemical weapons".

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"I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britain's national interest", she added. "We can not allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized - within Syria, on the streets of the United Kingdom, or anywhere else in our world".

Theresa May will pre-empt planned opposition motions by applying to the Speaker for a debate herself "to give the House an extended opportunity to discuss the military action".

"A clear precedent was set in 2015 ahead of the targeted strikes against Daesh - yet the Prime Minister chose to ignore this before launching airstrikes".

Former Labour foreign secretary David Miliband, now head of humanitarian relief group the International Rescue Committee, said military action needed to be part of a wider political strategy.

"There is broad based global support for the action we have taken", she will say.

In a statement to the Commons, she will also set out her justification for the decision - arguing that it was done to alleviate further humanitarian suffering in Syria caused by chemical weapons attacks.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had said Britain should press for an independent United Nations -led investigation into the suspected chemical attack in Douma rather than wait for instructions from Trump on how to proceed. "We believe that the strikes we have taken last night had a significant impact in terms of what the Syrian regime can do in the future".

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