Syrian air defense systems engaged incoming U.S. missiles over Damascus on Friday night, according to the top U.S. military commander.
“We did have some surface-to-air missile activity from the Syrian regime,” General and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said at a Pentagon briefing. No additional strikes against the Assad regime were planned for the time being, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, following Dunford’s comments.
Only Syrian air defense systems had responded to the strikes, U.S. officials confirmed. It was not immediately clear if Russian-supplied interceptors were activated.
Moscow promised a response to the attack, saying its “worst apprehensions” had come true.
“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,” Russian ambassador to the U.S. Anatonly Anotov said in a statement on Facebook. “Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions would not be left without consequences.”
President Donald Trump ordered the “precision strikes” on Syrian targets responsible for the production and deployment of chemical weapons. The bombardment was joined by Britain and France, which launched fighter jets to strike suspected chemical facilities in Homs and Damascus.
The coordinated strikes were in response to the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma, which allied governments say killed at least 60 people and left hundreds more injured over the weekend. In announcing the strikes, Trump directly blamed Russia for enabling the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons.
“To Iran and to Russia, I ask: what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?” Trump asked, adding the two countries are “most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime.”
Just minutes into the bombardment, the strike appeared to be much more severe than the response to a similar chemical attack by Syria in April 2017. Reports from Damascus described multiple waves of missiles striking targets in the eastern part of the capital, where chemical weapons facilities were known to be located.
Targets included a “scientific research center” located in the Damascus area and a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, Dunford confirmed.
Syrian government air defenses shot down at least a dozen missiles over the Damascus area, Syrian state media reported. U.S. defense officials did not confirm if any allied missiles had been shot down.
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