February 23, 2018

Syria war: Russia condemns US missile strike on ‘chemical weapons’ base

blogRussia has reacted angrily after the US launched a missile strike on a Syrian government air base.
US officials said the base had been used to launch a chemical weapons attack in north-western Syria that left dozens of civilians dead on Tuesday.
But Russia, which backs President Bashar al-Assad, condemned the US strike and suspended a deal designed to avoid mid-air collisions over Syria.
It is the first direct US military action against Syria’s government.
At least six people are reported to have been killed.
It comes just days after some 80 civilians, including many children, died in the suspected nerve gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.
The Syrian opposition and Western powers say the Syrian government launched the attack but Syria denies this.
Cruise missiles fly low and have a relatively small radar cross-section so they are difficult to destroy with air defences. Russia may seek to improve Syria’s surface-to-air missile system in the wake of this US attack but it would be very much a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Syria used to have a highly effective national air defence system based on Soviet-era radars and missiles but it has been significantly weakened in the wake of the civil war and the loss of territory by the regime. Look at the ease with which the Israelis carry out strikes against Hezbollah arms convoys and weapons stores in Syria.
Russia has some of its most modern surface-to-air missile systems at its air base in Syria and radars with a huge reach but, for whatever reason, they too have not deterred Israeli strikes.
Their presence makes air strikes by manned US aircraft unlikely and for Washington the Tomahawk cruise missile will remain the weapon of choice
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What do we know about the missile strike?
On the orders of President Donald Trump, two US Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat airfield in western Homs province at about 04:40 Syrian time (01:40 GMT).
They targeted aircraft, aircraft shelters, storage areas, ammunition supply bunkers and air defence systems at the Syrian government-controlled facility, according to the Pentagon.It said the base was used to store chemical weapons and that “every precaution” had been taken to avoid casualties. The Russian military was informed beforehand, the Pentagon said.
Speaking from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Mr Trump said he had acted in America’s “vital national security interest” to prevent the use of chemical weapons.
Mr Trump branded President Assad a “dictator” who had “launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians” and called on “all civilised nations”

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