Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., brief reporters on Syria airstrikes at the Pentagon on April 13, 2018. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

U.S. Strikes Three Syrian Targets Associated with Chemical Weapons Program

The U.S., France and UK struck a trio of targets in Syria on Friday night in response to the April 7 chemical attack on civilians in Douma.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said at the Pentagon that the strikes “sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable.”

“In accordance with the chemical weapons convention prohibiting the use of such weapons, we urge responsible nations to condemn the Assad regime and to join us in our firm resolve to prevent chemical weapons from being used again,” he said.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, alongside Mattis and joined by French attaché Brigadier General Montague and British attaché Air Vice Marshal Gavin Parker, said the strikes were launched at 9 p.m. EST.

“Our forces were integrated throughout the planning and execution of the operation. The targets that were struck and destroyed were specifically associated with the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons program. We also selected targets that would minimize the risk to innocent civilians,” Dunford said.

“The first target was a scientific research center located in the greater Damascus area. This military facility was a Syrian center for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology. The second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs. We assessed that this was the primary location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment,” he continued. “The third target, which was in the vicinity of the second target, contained both a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post.”

“U.S., British and French Naval and Air Forces were involved in the operation. And for reasons of operational security, I won’t be more specific this evening.”

Pressed on whether there will be additional strikes in the future, Mattis said that “will depend on Mr. Assad, should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future.”

“And of course the powers that have signed the chemical weapons prohibition have every reason to challenge Assad should he choose to violate that,” he added. “But right now this is a one-time shot, and I believe it has sent a very strong message to dissuade him, to deter him from doing this.”

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