Over 100 weapon strikes rained down on various Syrian targets after the U.S., France and the United Kingdom launched a joint military operation aimed at crippling the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capabilities.
“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,” U.S. President Donald Trump said from the White House.
The Pentagon said the strikes came in the wake of conclusive evidence that the Assad regime was responsible for a chemical attack on the rebel-held Douma enclave in Syria’s eastern Ghouta region.
Over 40 people were killed — including several children — and 500 injured in the April 7 attack.
WATCH: Donald Trump announces military strikes on Syria
Soon after Trump spoke, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron both said their countries’ respective armed forces had been directed to strike at the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capabilities, adding that the operations weren’t intended to overthrow the Assad regime.
The British Ministry of Defense said four Tornado jets had carried out an attack using Storm Shadow missiles on a military facility some 24 kilometres west of Homs, some distance from known concentrations of civilian habitation.
The French presidency tweeted a video showing war planes taking off for their mission.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Marine General Joseph Dunford said three main chemical weapons facilities were targeted by both missiles from the sea and fired from aircraft, which triggered Syrian air defenses.
They could not confirm how many missiles hit their targets.
WATCH: Pentagon says Syria strike hit 3 targets
Mattis stated that the U.S. had “gone to great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties,” while Dunford said the U.S. military advised Russia of airspace that would be used in the strike but did not “pre-notify them.”
Mattis added that the U.S. was using double the number of weapons compared to last year, when it launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian government’s Shayrat Airbase in retaliation to a deadly chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun.
He said the strikes were necessary because “the Assad regime did not get the message last year.”
WATCH: ‘Clearly the Assad regime did not get the message last year’
At least six loud explosions were heard in the Syrian capital Damascus, and smoke was seen rising over the city even as Trump delivered his remarks.
Syrian state TV said the army’s air defenses shot down 13 missiles.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a scientific research centre and military bases in Damascus were struck, as were the Syrian army’s Republican Guard and 4th Division, elite units of the Syrian military.
WATCH: Victims of suspected gas attack in Syria hosed down as Damascus denies
Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. slammed the military action, suggesting that the U.S. was in no position to judge other countries.
“The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard,” Anatoly Antonov said in a statement. “We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.”
The Russian embassy in Canada tweeted that the strikes were “treacherous and insane.”
Trump explained that the military operation was a direct response to “monster” Assad’s chemical attacks, terming them a “significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use” by the regime.
“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air.”
Trump also challenged Iran and Russia, saying, “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?”
Syria and close ally Russia denied carrying out any chemical attack, with Russia accusing the U.K. of orchestrating a fake chemical attack with the help of Syria’s White Helmets volunteer organization.
WATCH: Russia says UK led ‘staged’ chemical attack in Syria
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his support for the military action against Syria.
“Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week’s attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria. Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with our international partners to further investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those responsible must be brought to justice.”
Trudeau was to be seated next to U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence at the official dinner for the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, but Pence was pulled aside before the dinner.
— With files from Reuters