- The first poll showed that the public believe Mrs May’s action was wrong by a majority of almost two to one
- Public opposition to the raids in the Survation poll was mirrored by signs of political unrest over the strikes
- Fellow Cabinet Ministers David Davis, Esther McVey and Sajid Javid voiced concern at snubbing Parliament
- But fears have arisen over a Russian cyber backlash that could see vital services including hospitals attacked
Boris Johnson has defended the government’s decision to join America and France in attacking Syria, despite dismay in some corners that Parliament was not consulted first.
The Foreign Secretary said the strikes were aboout ‘standing up for principle and for civilized values’.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he added: ‘We may not end the barabarism – but we are telling the world that there is one type of barbarism that is banned and that deserves to be banned.’
He also insisted ‘A significant body of information including intelligence, suggests the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma that killed about 75 people. Multiple accounts located a regime Mi-8 in the vicinity at the time. The opposition does not have helicopters and no other actor in the Syrian theatre is though capable of launching a chemical strike of that scale.’
But fears have arisen over a Russian cyber backlash that could see vital services including water supplies, gas networks, banks, hospitals and air traffic control affected in retaliation for the strikes.
GCHQ is thought to be monitoring the web to pick up any signs of cyber aggression from the Kremlin, following the missile strikes on Syrian chemical basis in Damascus.
Counter-terrorism and defence expert Professor Michael Clarke, the former director of defence and security think tank RUSI, said yesterday: ‘I suspect Russia will choose not to respond in military terms.
A statement by the Russian ambassador to the US last night said: ‘Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.
All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.
Theresa May, pictured at a press conference today, is facing a public backlash over the Syrian bombing after not going to Parliament for a vote first
‘But cyber warfare is highly likely. A Russian attack in the next two to three weeks is a high threat. And it will be an attack on national infrastructure, not just upsetting city firms, but getting inside the transport system, or the health system, or air traffic control. It could affect everyone. One of the biggest concerns is an air crash,’ according to the Mirror.
Such cyber attacks could see electricity cuts, while Russian hackers could also disable water supplies, as well as energy grid and financial services being crippled suddenly.
The concerns come as the first poll carried out after yesterday’s raids showed that the public believe Mrs May’s action was wrong by a majority of almost two to one.
And six out of ten say there must be no more missile strikes unless she wins the backing of MPs – with only one in five in favour of her going it alone again.
GCHQ is thought to be monitoring the web to pick up any signs of cyber aggression from the Kremlin, following the unified missile strikes on Syrian chemical basis in Damascus
RAF Tornado taxiing to the threshold before taking-off on a sortie at RAF Akrotiri to conduct strikes in support of Operations over the Middle East
The findings in the Survation poll for The Mail on Sunday came after:
- British war planes bombed the Syrian regime for the first time, in revenge for its ‘despicable and barbaric’ chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians;
- Four RAF Tornado jets launched devastating Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility near the city of Homs as part of a joint 105-missile strike with the US and France aimed at stopping President Bashar al-Assad gassing his own people;
- UK security sources confirmed to this newspaper that RAF jets targeted the Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage facility, 15 miles west of Homs;
- Claims in intelligence reports that the facility was linked to the chlorine attack on civilians in Douma on April 7 which led to at least 75 dead, including children.
A series of missile strikes were launched against Syria by the US, UK and France in response to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma a week ago
British Royal Air Force Tornado pilot checking the weapons on his Tornado aircfraft at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus
The USS Monterey – an American navy warship stationed in the Red Sea – launches just one of its salvo of 30 Tomahawk missiles against targets in Syria to punish Assad for what President Trump called a ‘savage’ chemical weapons attack
Public opposition to the raids in the Survation poll was mirrored by signs of political unrest over the strikes – and diplomatic fears Russia might retaliate, escalating the situation towards a global conflict.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that during Thursday’s Cabinet war summit, Chancellor Philip Hammond, a former Defence Secretary, reportedly ’caused raised eyebrows’ by questioning the RAF’s ability to carry out successful strikes.
One source said: ‘The Chancellor said that he wasn’t sure the RAF would hit their targets because of the Russian-backed Syrian defence systems. There was an awkward silence.’
Fellow Cabinet Ministers David Davis, Esther McVey and Sajid Javid voiced concern at snubbing Parliament. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the UK’s air strikes ‘legally questionable’, forcing the Government to publish detailed legal advice justifying the bombings. It claimed ‘the UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering’.
Mrs May faces a Commons showdown with MPs tomorrow, with even some leading Conservatives warning she has risked worsening the situation in Syria.
However, despite the criticism, the poll shows Mrs May remains far more popular than Labour.
Mrs May faced journalists in Downing Street yesterday after ordering British forces into action in Syria
One of the four RAF Tornadoes which launched Storm Shadow missiles to vaporise a chemical weapons depot in Homs comes back in to land at the RAF Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus after the mission
Scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area
The Tornados, flown by 31 Squadron the Goldstars, were supported by a Voyager aircraft. They launched Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility
Fighter jet landing at Akrotiri military British Royal Air Force Base, Cyprus following strikes on Syrian chemical weapons bases
She is the most trusted Prime Minister to lead the nation into war since Margaret Thatcher, beating David Cameron and Tony Blair. Ordering military action for the first time since entering No 10, a sombre Mrs May used a 9am Downing Street press conference to insist the bombing was the ‘right thing to do’ to stop the use of banned chemical weapons. She denied Britain was interfering in Syria’s long and bloody civil war.
In a letter to MPs, the Prime Minister was defiant, saying: ‘This action is absolutely in Britain’s national interest. The lesson of history is that when the global rules and standards that keep us safe come under threat, we must take a stand and defend them.’
President Trump’s triumphant ‘mission accomplished’ declaration followed the US-led coalition’s launch of 105 cruise missiles at three chemical weapons factories and storage depots across Syria. The comments echoed George W. Bush’s premature declaration of victory over Iraq in 2003.
The Pentagon said all of its targets had been hit, despite Syria and its key ally Russia claiming that most of the missiles had been shot down by air defences, while the rest only hit disused or empty sites. The air strikes were launched a week to the day after an estimated 75 people were killed and a further 500 injured, including young children, in the suspected chemical weapons attack on Douma, a suburb of the capital Damascus.
Western intelligence agencies gathered evidence that convinced political leaders that the Assad regime was to blame, including observations of an army helicopter over the city, while aid workers told how chlorine could be smelled in the air and victims were found with foam in their mouth and with burning eyes.
The White House said last night that in addition to chlorine, the nerve agent sarin was also used in Douma. It said doctors and aid organisations on the ground reported the ‘strong smell of chlorine and described symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin’.
The view from Damascus as the US and allies launched reprisals after the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime
The Akrotiri military British Royal Air Force Base on Cyrus where the British planes flew missions from last night
The Ministry of Defence confirmed they fired Storm Shadow cruise missiles (file picture) at a military facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs
A French air force Rafale fighter jet prepares to take off on its mission against Assad after President Macron saw evidence of Syrian war crimes
A senior administration official said the US had ‘significant information that points to sarin use’.
President Trump gave the first warning of the attack on Wednesday when he tweeted that Russia should ‘get ready’ because ‘nice and new and smart’ missiles would be coming. He also told Vladimir Putin he should not be ‘partners with a Gas Killing Animal’.
At some time after 1am UK time yesterday, four GR4 Tornado aircraft bristling with the latest military hardware took off under the cover of darkness from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
The sorties followed several hours of briefings and meticulous assessments of the chemical weapons site by RAF crews and operational planners, intended to rule out civilian casualties.
Pictures released last night by the Ministry of Defence showed the tense final preparations at Akrotiri before the operation was finally launched, including a Flight Lieutenant dressed in a flying suit and carrying a pistol holster around his shoulder inspecting an ASRAAM air-to-air missile attached to the wing of one of the Tornados.
Each Tornado was flown by a two-man crew drawn from the RAF’s 31 Squadron, nicknamed the Gold Stars. These personnel form part of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) based at Akrotiri. Crews have been conducting air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since 2015.
Shortly after 2am yesterday the pilots and weapons systems officers aboard the Tornados released their payloads of Storm Shadow missiles, each costing £750,000, as President Trump announced that military operations against Syria had begun.
David Cameron, who lost a Commons vote on military action against the Syrian regime in 2013, said he backed the strikes. DUP leader Arlene Foster also welcomed it as ‘proportionate and justified’
Before and after images provided by the Pentagon show how the targets selected were obliterated in the raids by the allies against Assad’s regime
In order to avoid attack from Russian-made rocket systems operated by Syria, the RAF jets remained in international airspace throughout the operation. The missiles have a range of 155 miles and travelled 100 miles. At no time was the safety of the RAF crews endangered. It is understood that all eight British missiles found their targets and caused significant destruction.
Last night the MoD said: ‘Very careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area.
‘The facility struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk.
‘Our action was proportionate, specifically aimed at degrading the regime’s ability to use chemical weapons and deterring further such appalling acts.’ The same storage facility was also targeted by nine US Tomahawk missiles fired from a US Navy warship in the Red Sea, three French naval cruise missiles and two Scalp cruise missiles fired from Rafale fighter jets.
The US also launched a huge attack on a chemical weapons laboratory in Damascus thought by intelligence sources to have been involved in the production of sarin and other deadly nerve agents used by the Assad regime.
At around 2am, 57 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 19 high explosive bombs were dropped on the Barzeh Research and Development facility with devastating results.
Early on Saturday US time, President Trump wrote on Twitter: ‘A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!’
Commentators were quick to point out that President Bush stood on an aircraft carrier under a huge ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner just six weeks after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but came to regret it, as what followed was a war that cost the lives of hundreds of US and UK soldiers. But Pentagon spokesman Dana White backed Mr Trump’s slogan, saying: ‘We hit the sites, the heart of the chemical weapons programme. So it was mission accomplished.’
In a detailed briefing, the US military revealed that 105 missiles obliterated three Syrian regime chemical weapons sites in a ‘precise, overwhelming and effective’ attack.
Barzeh was the primary target, razed to the ground by 57 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 19 JASSM ‘smart bombs’ – used in combat for the first time. The second target was Him Shinshar, flattened by the eight Storm Shadow missiles from RAF Tornados, which were escorted by Typhoon fighter jets. It was also hit by nine US missiles and five French missiles.
The third target was a nearby chemical weapons bunker, pounded with seven Scalp missiles.
Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr, staff director of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said all missiles fired by Allied forces hit their targets shortly after 4am local time, and denied claims made by Russia and Syria that dozens were shot out of the sky by Soviet-era air defence missiles.
In the early hours UK time, Donald Trump said he had ordered ‘precision strikes’ on Syria in retaliation for the ‘evil and despicable’ poison gas attack that killed at least 75 people on April 7 (a young victim is pictured)
The British missions against targets in Syria were launched the RAF Akrotiri base near Limassol on Cyprus in the early hours
He added: ‘None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defences and we have no indication that Russian air defence systems were deployed.’
He said Syrian air defence systems fired back ‘indiscriminately’ only after the devastating strike mission.
He said: ‘Over 40 surface-to-air missiles were deployed by the Syrian regime. Most of these launches were conducted after the last impact of our strike was over. We assess that the defensive efforts of Syria were largely ineffective.’
Syrian TV broadcast images of the ruins of the scientific research centre that was reduced to rubble, but the regime claimed the attack had little impact.
Assad loyalists took to the streets of Damascus waving flags and mocking Mr Trump, while a Twitter account run by President Assad’s office posted a video of him walking calmly through the presidential palace.
No further sorties were expected by the US or its allies today.
But arguments still raged over the legitimacy of the strikes as well as the truth behind the deaths in rebel-controlled Douma.
At a meeting of the UN Security Council last night called at Russia’s request, Mr Putin’s envoy called the air strikes an ‘act of aggression’, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged restraint to ‘avoid escalation’. The military operation was denounced as a ‘crime’ by Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but welcomed by Turkey’s President Erdogan as sending a message to Assad that his massacre would not go unpunished.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it ‘necessary and appropriate’ even though her country did not join in, while Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he backed the action.
In Syria, the opposition was braced for revenge attacks, particularly in rebel-held territory in the north-west. ‘Maybe the regime will not use chemical weapons, but it will not hesitate to use weapons,’ opposition leader Nasr al-Hariri said.
–Credit: Home | Mail Online