WASHINGTON — Unite States, British and French forces have pounded Syria with air strikes early on Saturday in response to a poison gas attack that killed dozens of people last week, in the biggest intervention by Western powers against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
US President Donald Trump announced the military action from the White House late on Friday. As he spoke, explosions rocked Damascus.
Trump said he was prepared to sustain the response until Assad’s government stopped its use of chemical weapons.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron said the UK and France had joined in the attack.
Syria’s seven-year-old civil war has pitted the United States and its allies against Russia, which itself intervened in the war in 2015 to back Assad.
Syrian state media said the attack would fail and called it a “flagrant violation of international law.” Russia’s ambassador to the United States said Moscow had warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences”.Follow @gorkhapost
Syria ‘accidentally shot down’ Russian spy plane during Israeli attack
Russia’s defence ministry said one of its military surveillance aircraft with 14 people on board disappeared from radar screens over the Mediterranean at the same time as Israeli and French forces were mounting aerial attacks on targets in Syria.
“Connection has been lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane over the Mediterranean Sea,” the ministry said. Contact was lost at about 23:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Monday, it added.
There are conflicting reports as to who is responsible for the downing of the aircraft, however the US claims it was accidentally shot down by the Syrian regime’s anti-aircraft artillery after the Syrians came under fire by Israeli missiles.
A US official said Washington believed the aircraft, the turbo-prop plane used for electronic reconnaissance, was inadvertently shot down by anti-aircraft artillery operated by Moscow’s ally, the Syrian Government.
Russsia’s Defence Ministry said the aircraft was returning to the Russian-run Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province when it disappeared from radar screens at about 11:00pm Moscow time.
The plane was over the Mediterranean Sea about 35 kilometres from the Syrian coastline, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.
The fate of the 14 people on board the missing plane is unknown, and a rescue operation has been organised out of the Hmeymim base, the ministry said.