Tuesday, May 21, 2019
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Pentagon: US-led strikes on Syria hit every target

US general disputes Russian claim Syria shot down most missiles deployed against facilities near Damascus and Homs.

The Pentagon has said US-led strikes on Syria successfully hit every target, dealing a "severe blow" to President Bashar al-Assad's alleged chemical weapons programme.

Lieutenant-General Kenneth F McKenzie told reporters on Saturday that the US' military operation with Britain and France was aimed "at delivering a clear and unambiguous message" to Bashar's government over an alleged chemical weapons attack against civilians in the town of Douma last week.

Calling the suspected gas attack "inexcusable", McKenzie said the pre-dawn attacks targeted three facilities used to research, develop and store chemical weapons inside Syria.

The raids, in which the US and its allies deployed a total of 105 missiles, were "precise, overwhelming and effective", and "successfully hit every target", he said. 

"These attacks on multiple axes were able to overwhelm the Syrian air defence systems. None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation was successfully engaged by the Syrian air defence system." 

The prime target of the operation was the Barza Research and Development Center in the greater Damascus area. A total of 76 missiles, including 57 Tomahawk missiles, were fired at the facility, McKenzie said. 

The US and its allies deployed 22 missiles against a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs, and some seven missiles at another chemical weapons bunker in the same area, he added. 

McKenzie's remarks contradict an earlier assessment by Russia, a key Syrian ally.

Sergey Rudskoy, a lieutenant-general in the Russian military, told a press conference that Syrian air defence had intercepted 71 of the more than 100 missiles. 

Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, has denounced Saturday's attack as "an act of aggression" that will only worsen the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

He has called for the UN Security Council meeting over the attacks.

Assad, who denies the suspected chemical attack on Douma, told his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, another key ally, that the latest strikes increased his government's resolve "to fight and crush terrorism in every inch" of the country.

Iran's foreign ministry has meanwhile warned of "regional consequences". 

Dana White, a spokeswoman for Pentagon, speaking alongside McKenzie, said the US was only in Syria to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and did not want to get drawn into Syria's civil war

"We do not seek conflict in Syria, but we cannot allow such grievous violations of international law," she said, referring to the suspected chemical attack. 

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