US, British and French forces struck Syria with more than 100 missiles on Saturday in the first Western strikes against the Syria, targeting what they called chemical weapons sites in retaliation for a poison gas attack, allegedly attributed to Syrian government.
US President Donald Trump announced the military action from the White House. As he spoke, explosions rocked Damascus.
Trump said the strikes were a direct response to an alleged April 7 chemical attack on the terrorist-held town of Douma that rescuers and monitors say killed more than 40 people.
At least six loud explosions were heard in Damascus and smoke rose over the city. Syrian state media reported only three people injured and Russia's Defense Ministry said there were "no victims" among Syrian civilians and military personnel.
Syria released video of the wreckage of a bombed-out research lab, but also of President Bashar al-Assad arriving at work as usual, with the caption "morning of resilience".
Washington described the targets as a center near Damascus for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons, a chemical weapons storage site near the city of Homs and another site near Homs that stored chemical weapons equipment and housed a command post.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strikes a "one time shot", although Trump raised the prospect of further strikes if Assad's government again used chemical weapons.
Assad, who has denied ever using chemical weapons, responded to the strikes with a defiant vow.
"This aggression will only make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country," he said in comments published by his office.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the raids as “aggressive actions" that will make the humanitarian crisis in Syria worse and called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council. Putin added that the strikes had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.”
On Saturday, Putin reaffirmed Russia’s view that a purported chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma that prompted the strikes was a fake. Putin added that Russian military experts who inspected Douma found no trace of the attack. He criticized the US and its allies for launching the strikes without waiting for inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog to visit the area.
The strikes that hit early Saturday in Syria came hours before inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were set to arrive to inspect the site of the alleged chemical attack.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that it believes a political settlement is the only way to resolve the Syrian issue and called for a full, fair and objective investigation into suspected chemical weapon attacks in Syria.
Hua Chunying, the ministry’s spokeswoman, said that China has consistently opposed the use of force in international relations and that any military action that bypassed the United Nations’ Security Council violated the principles and basic norms of international law.
No gains for West
Iran denounced the attack, with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei describing it a crime by “criminal” leaders that would not achieve any gains.
“Today’s dawn attack on Syria is a crime. I clearly declare that the president of the United States, the president of France and the British prime minister are criminals,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a speech.
“They will not benefit (from the attack) as they went to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in the past years and committed such crimes and did not gain any benefits,” he added.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also warned that the US-led missile attack on Syria would lead to further destruction in the Middle East.
“Such attacks will have no result but more destruction ... the Americans want to justify their presence in the region by such attacks,” Rouhani said.
The aggressors are angry about the defeats of the terrorists they supported in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta region, he pointed out, stressing, however, that the Syrian people will keep up their resistance.
“The Syrian nation will continue to resist against foreign aggression ...Iran has always helped and will continue to support oppressed nations in the region and around the globe,” Rouhani said.
Later in the day, Rouhani called his Syrian counterpart. Rouhani told Assad that Iran would continue to stand by Syria, expressing his confidence that the aggression would not weaken the determination of the Syrian people in its war against terrorism.”
Assad said the missile strikes by the US, the UK, and France will only strengthen Syria’s resolve to keep its fight against terror groups and “crush terrorism in every inch of the nation.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also reacted to the attack. In a statement, the ministry said: “Undoubtedly, the United States and its allies, which took military action against Syria despite the absence of any proven evidence ... will assume responsibility for the regional and trans-regional consequences of this adventurism”
“Iran is opposed to the use of chemical weapons on the basis of religious, legal and ethical standards, while at the same time it ... strongly condemns (using this) as an excuse to commit aggression against a sovereign state,” it said.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement slammed the aerial attack as “a flagrant violation of the country’s sovereignty.”
"The war that America is waging against Syria, against the people of the region and resistance and liberation movements, will not realize its goals," it said in a statement.
UN urges restraint
The Syria attack drew support from the European Union, Germany, Israel and other allies while British Prime Minister Theresa May said the use of force was “right and legal” in this case.
The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, however, said there was no legal basis for British strikes against Syria and such action would encourage others to behave in the same way.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement that a target of the strikes was the Syrian government’s “clandestine chemical arsenal.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed the airstrikes as a “necessary and appropriate” action to warn Syria against further use of chemical weapons.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for calm, delaying a planned trip to Saudi Arabia to deal with the aftermath of the military action.
"I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances," he said in a statement.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that there can be no other solution to the Syrian conflict than political.
"We have a common goal in preventing any escalation of violence that could transform the Syrian crisis into a wider regional confrontation, with incalculable consequences for the Middle East and indeed the whole world," she said.
71 missile intercepted
The Russian military said Syria’s air defense system shot down 71 of 103 missiles fired on Saturday.
Moscow said Syria used S-125, S-200, Buk and Kvadrat systems to repel the attacks.
Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi told a televised briefing that Russia may consider supplying S-300 surface to-air missile systems to Syria and “other countries”.
Following the attack on Saturday morning, hundreds of Syrians arrived to the famed Umayyad Square in Damascus to show their support for President Assad, draped in flags and belting out patriotic tunes.
Syria forces enter Douma
Meanwhile, Syria's internal security forces entered Douma on Saturday, state media reported, saying the final terrorist holdout on the edge of Damascus would be secured within "hours".
Douma was the last terrorist-held town in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus. Terrorists had captured it in 2012, and Syrian government fighters had not entered it since.
"Units from the internal security forces entered Douma in Eastern Ghouta," state television reported.
"We are hours away from ending the terrorist presence in Douma," it added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the units had entered after the last buses of terrorists left Douma on Saturday for northern Syria.
The departures come under a negotiated withdrawal reached last weekend between the Jaish al-Islam terrorist faction, Syria's government, and its Russian ally.
Reuters, AP, AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.