Smoke is seen from a distance in the Syrian capital Damascus on April 14, 2018. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
DAMASCUS, April 14 (Xinhua) -- The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of joint airstrikes on Syrian military facilities early Saturday morning without any UN authorization.
In response, the Syrian Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S.-led missile attack, saying it violated international law and the UN Charter.
MISSILE ATTACK ON MILITARY FACILITIES
Loud explosions were heard in Damascus before daybreak, Xinhua reporters in the besieged city said. They saw plumes of smoke rising from areas in the capital while the missiles looked like red dots.
Syrian state TV reports said Syrian military fired air defense missiles from Mount Qasioun that overlooks Damascus to combat the "U.S., French and British aggression on Syria."
The reports also said Syrian forces shot down 13 missiles in the Kiswah area, south of Damascus.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said U.S. allies hit "Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure". No additional attacks were planned, Mattis added.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said manned aircraft were used to target a research center, a storage facility and command post, and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs.
The British Defense Ministry said four Tornado jets fired Storm Shadow missiles at a site assessed to have stockpiled chemicals, 15 km west of Homs, some distance from known concentrations of civilian habitation.
"Very careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target," minimizing civilian casualties, the ministry said.
PUNITIVE ACTION OVER ALLEGED CHEMICAL ATTACK
U.S. President Donald Trump announced the military operation from Washington on Friday night local time, saying precision attacks were under way in Syria, in coordination with Britain and France, against Syrian military facilities related to chemical weapons capabilities.
He said the operation was intended to deter the Syrian Government, which the United States suspects of carrying out a chemical weapon attack in Douma, a town on the outskirts of Damascus. Dozens of civilians, including children, reportedly died in the April 7 attack.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday the strike was "limited and targeted," adding that it was not about intervening in the seven-year civil war in Syria, nor about changing the government.
"We cannot tolerate the normalization of the use of chemical weapons," French President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday in a statement released shortly after huge explosions were heard in Damascus.
The Syrian Government denies the chemical weapon attack accusation, saying the rebels and the West fabricated it as an excuse to attack the country.
While the United Nations Security Council has failed to pass a resolution on the controversial issue, at Syria's invitation, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has sent a fact-finding mission to Douma. The investigators are scheduled to arrive Saturday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has voiced full support for the OPCW investigation, saying the situation requires a thorough investigation using impartial, independent and professional expertise.
On Friday he warned of the danger of a full-blown military escalation in Syria, stressing "the need to avoid the situation spiralling out of control."
ACT SLAMMED AS AGGRESSION
Syria's state news agency SANA called the attack an "aggression" that was "a flagrant violation of international law, a breach of the international community's will." "It is doomed to fail," it added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also called the strike "an act of aggression" against a sovereign state. In a statement Saturday, he said Russia strongly condemns it.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said the U.S. strikes on Syria "would not be left without consequences."
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also denounced the airstrikes on Syria as a "crime".
"This invasion is a clear violation of international regulations and undermining Syria's national sovereignty and integrity," Iran's Foreign Ministry said.