Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said the US military strike against a Syrian airfield was intended to deter Bashar al-Assad from carrying out any further chemical weapons attacks but was not the start of a new military campaign.
The barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles, fired from two US Navy vessels located in the Mediterranean sea, hit the Al Shayrat airbase near Homs in the early hours of Friday. It is claimed the base was responsible for launching the deadly chemical attack on Tuesday, which killed dozens of civilians in the Idlib province of war-ravaged country.
Asked if the strike was the start of a new military campaign, Mr Michael Fallon replied: “We don't see last night's strike like that.”
“This strike was very limited to one airfield, it was entirely appropriate, it's designed to deter the regime from carrying out further chemical weapons attacks," Mr Fallon told ITV. “So we don't see it as the start of a different military campaign.”
Emphasising the UK Government “fully supports” the US military operation, he added: “We've not been asked to be involved in this, this was not a matter for the coalition that's in Syria and Iraq fighting Daesh.”
Mr Fallon’s comments come after Downing Street said it “fully supports” the military offensive by the US President, adding they believed “was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks”.
They added: “Overnight, the US has taken military action against the Syrian regime, targeting the airfield in Shayrut which was used to launch the chemical weapons attack earlier this week.”
Downing Street also sources confirmed that they were in “close contact” with the US administration throughout Thursday and were told of the strikes on the Syrian regime’s airbase in advance.
Speaking from Florida, Mr Trump announced his strike in an emotional message to the public, evoking images of children dying. “Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” he said. “It was a slow and brutal death for so many.
“Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”
The US President also called on other “civilised nations” to join his effort in “seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”
George Osborne, the former Chancellor, added that the new assault on Syria provided a chance to “make amends” for the “terrible” vote in the House of Commons in 2013, in which David Cameron ruled out the prospect of British involvement in any military action in the region after the Government was defeated by 272 voted to 285.
“So it takes Donald Trump to re-establish the West’s 100 year old redline against the abhorrent use of chemical weapons,” Mr Osborne added.
Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in Westminster, who supported the action in 2015 to attack Isis but voted against the 2013 strike, added the strike appeared to be “carefully collaborated”.
Speaking on the Today programme, he added: “I think we should we continue on the track we are on. It will have the consequence of putting further pressure on the Syrian regime in the Geneva talks.
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