'It was the right thing to do': May says joining US and France in airstrikes against Syrian regime was the ONLY WAY to deter more chemical atrocities as she defends refusal to give MPs a vote
- Britain, the US and France today unleashed a salvo of cruise missiles against Syrian regime forces
- Four RAF Tornados took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in the early hours and struck regime facilities
- The regime was believed to have been keeping chemical weapon stockpiles at the former base
- Theresa May said the action was the 'right thing to do' and rejected criticism about no Commons vote
- France confirmed a 'large part' of Assad's chemical arsenal had been wiped out by the co-ordinated strikes
- US, France and the UK are set to address NATO regarding the air strikes against Syria later today
Theresa May today insisted she had done the 'right thing' by joining the US and France in unleashing a salvo of cruise missiles against Syria.
The Prime Minister said the 'limited and targeted' reprisals appeared to have been 'successful' in degrading the Bashar Assad regime's capacity to commit more 'harrowing' attacks using chemical weapons.
At a press conference in Downing Street this morning, Mrs May said Britain and its allies had 'no choice' as diplomacy alone would not deter fresh outrages.
'I believe this action was necessary. I believe it was the right thing to do,' she said.
Mrs May said chemical weapons use could not be 'normalised' and every possible precaution had been taken to avoid escalation and confrontation with Russian forces, who are on the ground in numbers propping up Assad.
'This was not about interfering in a civil war and it was not about regime change,' she said. 'We know the Syrian regime has an abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people.
'No other group could have carried out this attack. Daesh does not have a presence in Douma.'
Although stressing that the strikes were designed to deter the Syrian regime, Mrs May also referred to the nerve agent deployed against a former Russian spy in Salisbury last month - saying the willingness of the West to respond should make other states think again.
And she rejected criticism of her refusal to call a parliamentary vote, saying the action had to happen in a 'timely' fashion. Mrs May said she would come before the Commons to put the case to MPs on Monday.
At a press conference today, the Prime Minister said the reprisals appeared to have been 'successful' in degrading the Assad regime's capacity to commit 'harrowing' chemical weapons atrocities in the future
Fighter jet landing at Akrotiri military British Royal Air Force Base, Cyprus following strikes on Syrian chemical weapons bases
Anti-aircraft fire over the Syrian capital of Damascus overnight. The Ministry of Defence confirmed they fired Storm Shadow cruise missiles at a military facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs
Mrs May faced journalists in Downing Street this morning after ordering British forces into action in Syria overnight
Four RAF Tornados took off from Cyprus in the early hours and struck regime facilities linked to the production and use of chemical weapons. They all returned safely.
The allies were galvanised into military action after chlorine gas and another nerve agent were deployed in Douma on Saturday, killing up to 75 people, including young children.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that Storm Shadow cruise missiles were fired at a former missile base fifteen miles west of Homs, where stockpiles of banned substances are believed to have been held. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the missions had been 'highly successful' and degraded Assad's ability to repeat the chemical outrage.
France confirmed a 'large part' of the Syrian regime's chemical arsenal was destroyed last night following the strike.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday morning: 'A large part of its chemical arsenal has been destroyed. A lot has been destroyed in last night's strikes.'
While no further strikes have been planned, Le Drian refused to rule out a further attack if Assad crossed the 'red line' of using chemical weapons again.
He said: 'On the question of chemical weapons, there is a red line that must not be crossed, and if it should be crossed again, there will be another intervention. But I think the lesson has been learned.'
The French military said it fired 12 missiles during the air strikes while the British Ministry of Justice refused to disclose how many missiles it launched. US officials hinted that they launched more than 100 at the three targets in Syria.
The EU, NATO and other allies praised the decision to respond to the use of chemical weapons, while Russia and Iran condemned it as an 'act of aggression'. President Vladimir Putin has demanded an emergency session of the UN Security Council.
The US, UK and France are due to brief Nato allies later today following the air strikes.
But Mrs May is facing a domestic backlash after defying calls from Opposition parties and some Tories to stage a parliamentary vote before sending UK forces into combat.
Downing Street said it will published the legal advice it received today after Jeremy Corbyn branded the strikes 'legally questionable' and again urged a UN investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria - something that has been vetoed by Assad's Russian allies. SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not believe the reprisals would help bring peace.
However, splits within Labour ranks were laid bare with some MPs breaking cover to support the PM. Mrs May's DUP allies also signalled their backing, with leader Arlene Foster saying the action was 'proportionate and justified'. David Cameron, who in 2013 lost a Commons vote after calling for strikes against Syria in response to another chemical weapons attack, also praised the action.
Although Mrs May will be coming to parliament to answer questions on Monday, there appears to be no intention of holding a retrospective vote on whether the strikes should have taken place.
With no Opposition Day debates scheduled next week, it is unclear how critics would be able to force a Commons vote.
Asked if the strikes had also been a warning to Russia, the PM said: 'The action that took place last night was an action which was focused on degrading and deterring the operational capability and the willingness of the Syrian regime to continue to use chemical weapons.
'There have been many instances when we have seen them using those chemical weapons.
'But I believe it should also be a message to others that the international community is not going to stand by and allow chemical weapons to be used with impunity.'
Mrs May said chemical weapons had 'all too often' been used in recent times.
'I think it is right that the international community has come together and said we will not accept this,' she added.
Damascus skies erupt with anti-aircraft fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus
The view from Damascus as the US and allies launched reprisals after the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime
The Akrotiri military British Royal Air Force Base on Cyrus where the British planes flew missions from last night
Trump launches airstrikes on Damascus in response to 'evil and despicable' chemical attack by 'monster' Assad and directly challenges Putin: 'Who wants to be associated with mass murder?'
In a statement in the early hours as the strikes began, Mrs May said the decision had not been taken 'lightly' and there was 'no practicable alternative to the use of force' to deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
She said the strikes were in the UK's national interest and had been limited and targeted rather than designed to bring about 'regime change'.
She said: '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.'
'We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.
'History teaches us that the international community must defend the global rules and standards that keep us all safe.
'That is what our country has always done. And what we will continue to do.'
She added: 'This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped – not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons.'
The MoD said at 2am British forces joined their allies in a 'precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the regime's use of chemical weapons against its own people'.
This still from a video shows a fighter jet taking off from Akrotiri military British Royal Air Force Base, Cyprus
The Ministry of Defence confirmed they fired Storm Shadow cruise missiles (file picture) at a military facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs
Tornado and Typhoon jets flew into RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus (pictured) in advance of the strikes on Syria in the early hours of this morning UK time
David Cameron, who lost a Commons vote on military action against the Syrian regime in 2013, said he backed the strikes. DUP leader Arlene Foster also welcomed it as 'proportionate and justified'
Britain, the US and France last night unleashed a salvo of cruise missiles against Syrian regime forces. In a statement, the PM said the decision was one she had not taken lightly and was done in the national interest. Four RAF Tornados took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in the early hours and struck regime facilities linked to the production and use of chemical weapons
The attack was focused on regime facilities linked to the production and use of chemical weapons.
Declaring his support, French President Emmanuel Macron said his nation, the United States and Britain have launched a military operation against the Syrian government's 'clandestine chemical arsenal.'
Macron said in a statement on Saturday that France's 'red line has been crossed' after a suspected chemical attack last week in the Syrian town of Douma.
He says there is 'no doubt' that the Syrian government is responsible.
Smoke could be seen rising after the overnight airstrikes that targeted military facilities in the Syrian capital, Damascus
The British missions against targets in Syria were launched the RAF Akrotiri base near Limassol on Cyprus in the early hours
Macron added the operation is limited to Syria's abilities to produce chemical weapons, and would not give details about what equipment is involved in the operation or what sites it is targeting.
Despite the ferocity of the Allied strikes, Syrian air defences claim to have shot down 13 missiles fired in the attack, Syrian state TV said. The missiles had been shot down in the Kiswah area south of Damascus.
Shortly after the strike, the MOD released a statement, stating: 'The UK element of the carefully coordinated joint action was contributed by four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s.
'They launched Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs, where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of Syria's obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
'Very careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area. The facility which was struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk.
French President Emmanuel Macron said his nation, the US and Britain had launched a military operation against the Syrian government's 'clandestine chemical arsenal'
'Detailed analysis of the effectiveness of the strike is currently underway, but initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack.'
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: 'The reason we have taken this action is because we all saw the images last week of the suffering that had been inflicted on innocent men, women and children, and there has been a need to act.
'That's why last night we deployed four Tornados armed with Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
'You will be pleased to hear all of those crews have returned safely and every early indication is that is has been a highly successful mission.
'This is something we have been in discussion with the US and French over the last few days but obviously the meeting of Cabinet is where this was properly discussed.'
Mr Williamson said the service personnel involved in last night's attack have played 'an important role in terms of degrading the Syrian regime in using chemical weapons in the future'.
'The reprehensible use of chemical weapons in Douma is further evidence of the Syrian regime's appalling cruelty against its own people.
'We will not stand by whilst innocent civilians, including women and children, are killed and made to suffer.
'The international community has responded decisively with legal and proportionate military force. Let these united actions send a clear message to the regime – the use of chemical weapons is categorically unacceptable and you will be held to account.'
US Defense Secretary James Mattis says the US and its allies have taken 'decisive action' against Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure.
Mattis briefed reporters at the Pentagon Friday an hour after President Donald Trump announced the strike.
Mattis said the United States, along with France and the United Kingdom, struck because Syrian President Bashar Assad 'did not get the message' when the U.S. launched airstrikes after a chemical attack in 2017.
The defense secretary said Friday's strikes have 'sent a clear message' to Assad and his 'murderous lieutenants.'
Mattis said the strikes are 'directed at the Syrian regime' and they have 'gone to great lengths to avoid civilians and foreign casualties.'
Mattis said the U.S. has no reports of suffering any losses during the initial airstrikes on Syria Friday. Mattis said 'right now this is a one-time shot' but is not ruling out further attacks. President Donald Trump had said earlier that the campaign against the regime of Bashar Assad could be 'sustained.'
The defense secretary says the airstrikes were launched against several sites that he says helped provide Assad's ability to create chemical weapons.
Mattis said he is 'absolutely confident' that Syrian President Bashar Assad is behind the alleged chemical attack on his people that the U.S. and allies retaliated against Friday night.
He says the U.S. is 'very much aware of one of the chemical agents used.' And he says there may have been a second.
Yesterday details emerged of a Cabinet meeting the PM held on Thursday where she won the backing of her ministers to proceed without a parliamentary vote.
She told Cabinet: 'Since 1918 we have worked to uphold the international norm that chemical weapons are abhorrent and must never be used. In recent years that international norm has been eroded and that should be a matter of deep concern to us all. The use of chemical weapons should not go unchallenged.'
The Prime Minister said Britain had to act in order to restore that norm, because the weapons inflict human misery. Downing Street sources said she made the point that these weapons had been used a number of times in Syria – and also in Salisbury.
'These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,' Mr Trump said referring to Assad (pictured)
The need to restore international norms was shared by the whole Cabinet, Downing Street sources said.
They said: 'Cabinet have been impressed that from the off she has been very robust and very clear. She was the most hawkish.'
Russia's ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, held a press conference at his residence accusing Britain of peddling myths about Russia's activities.
At one point he compared allegations that the Syrian government had gassed its own people to Tony Blair's claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
He also suggested the alleged use of chemical weapons was a hoax and may have been used to discredit Assad. The Russian embassy in the UK said: 'Military strikes may be used to cover up all the evidence, or lack thereof, on the ground.'
Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the military had 'proof that testifies to the direct participation of Britain in the organising of this provocation in eastern Ghouta'.
In the early hours UK time, Donald Trump said he had ordered 'precision strikes' on Syria in retaliation for the 'evil and despicable' poison gas attack that killed at least 75 people on April 7 (a young victim is pictured)
He said Britain had told the White Helmets, who act as first responders in rebel-held areas, to fake the suspected chemical attack. British intelligence sources said however it was 'crystal clear' the Syrian regime was behind the attack and 'nobody serious' in the international community had any doubts about this.
Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will today start investigations on the ground into the suspected attack in Douma.
It came as UN secretary general Antonio Guterres told the UN the Middle East was in such chaos it had become a threat to international peace and security.
British forces join Allies in a 'successful' precision strike on Syria, says Ministry of Defence
At 0200 UK time on 14 April, British forces joined close Allies in a precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the regime's use of chemical weapons against its own people.
The strike was launched as a response to the chemical weapon attack on 7 April in Douma which killed up to 75 people, including young children; a significant body of information, including intelligence, indicates that the Syrian regime was responsible for this latest attack.
As the Prime Minister has made clear, this pattern of behaviour must be stopped, not just to protect innocent people in Syria from these horrific weapons, but also because the erosion cannot be allowed of the international norms that prevent the use of chemical weapons.
Our action is proportionate, specifically aimed at degrading the regime's ability to use chemical weapons and deterring further such appalling acts; it is therefore focused on regime facilities linked to the production and use of chemical weapons.
The UK element of the carefully coordinated joint action was contributed by four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s.
They launched Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs, where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of Syria's obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Very careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area. The facility which was struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk.
Detailed analysis of the effectiveness of the strike is currently underway, but initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack.