A Syrian soldier films the damage of the Syrian Scientific Research Center which was attacked by U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians, in Barzeh, near Damascus, Syria. Picture: AP
THE US, Britain and France declared missile strikes against Syria a success on Saturday as the UN Security Council rejected a Russian-proposed resolution condemning the attack.

The joint operation was in response to a chemical attack near Damascus last weekend which killed at least 43 people, the volunteer rescue group, the White Helmets, said.

US President Donald Trump hailed the US-led strikes in Syria as “perfectly executed” and declared “Mission Accomplished!” on Twitter. He also thanked France and Britain for participating.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron also issued statements calling the attacks a success, while Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the allies had “expressed their full support” for the airstrikes.

The reactions preceded a vote at the UN Security Council rejecting a resolution put forward by Russia to condemn the “aggression” against Syria, which is Moscow’s most important foothold in the region.

The 15-member body voted 8-3 against the resolution, with four abstentions.

The Russian and Syrian ambassadors to the UN, in their arguments, said the strikes were unjustified; violated the UN charter; and undermined the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja'afari questioned why there was not more consultation with the international community before the attacks. Ja'afari said a team from the global chemical weapons watchdog had reached Damascus hours after they took place and was due to begin its work.

The chemical weapons attack occurred in Douma, north-east of Damascus. Their probe could take several days.

Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, said she spoke with Trump after the strikes and he made it clear that the US will not allow the Syrian government to use chemical weapons again. She said Trump told her: “If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the US is locked and loaded.”

Haley said the council’s inability to hold those who use chemical weapons to account was largely due to Russia, which used its veto power six times to reject resolutions to address chemical weapons in Syria.

That gave Syria the green light to continue its weapons programme and use them against civilians, she said, adding a Russian disinformation campaign was now in full force.

US Vice President Mike Pence, who is substituting for Trump at the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, noted that Russia had agreed to be the guarantor of an agreement reached in 2014 designed to eliminate 100% the chemical weapons in Syria, and the international community is now demanding that it live up to those commitments.

“Our message to Russia is, you’re on the wrong side of history,” Pence said.

Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said earlier that the strikes on three Syrian chemical weapons sites - one in Damascus and two near Homs - were not an indication that the US intends to enter the Syrian civil war or try to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Our focus is to defeat (the Islamic State), it is not to get involved in the Syrian civil war,” she told reporters at the Pentagon.

She called the 105 missiles fired into Syria “justified, proportionate and legitimate” and said the allies took “every measure and caution” to hit only the intended targets.

Lieutenant-General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the joint chiefs of staff, said the strikes struck “the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons programme” and dealt it “a very serious blow.”

He said the US was not aware of any civilian casualties and none of the aircraft or missiles involved in the operation was engaged by Syrian air defences.

Al-Assad said the strikes would not deter his country and vowed to crush rebellion. “Aggression will only make Syria and the Syrian people more determined to continue fighting and pulverising terrorism in the country,” al-Assad told Syria’s state news agency SANA .

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the attacks, saying they would exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. - dpa/African News Agency (ANA)