Russian President Vladimir Putin denounces US-led strike on Syria as an 'act of aggression', Iran labels them a 'military crime'

President Donald Trump announced yesterday that the US, France and Britain together launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in Douma last week.

12:45am: 1 NEWS NOW will be back with updates on the US-led Syria airstrikes at 6am. Relive all the events on a tumultuous day below.

12:37am: A UN Security Council diplomat says the council will meet today at Russia's request, following airstrikes on Syria.

12:25am: This from Trump on Twitter a few minutes ago:

"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!" 

12:20am: Germany's Chancellor Merkel says the allied strikes in Syria were a "necessary and appropriate" response to what the US and its allies say was a recent chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma.

12:00am A global chemical warfare watchdog group says its fact-finding mission to Syria will go ahead even after the US-led airstrikes.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says in a statement that its team will stick to its plan to investigate last weekend's suspected poison gas attack in Douma.

The group says the mission "will continue its deployment to the Syrian Arab Republic to establish facts around the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma."

Russia and Syria disagree with Western allies that gas was used by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces to suppress opposition close to Damascus in an April 7 attack.

11:40pm: Iranian officials have made calls to Syrian leaders in the wake of the US-led airstrikes against Syrian targets.

Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, tells Syria's Bashar Assad that America's goal is to justify its continued presence in the region.

That description of their conversation comes from Syrian and Iranian state news agencies.

11:18pm: UK Prime Minister Theresa May says need for fast action, operational security led to strike without vote in Parliament.

11:10pm: The French Foreign Minister says more strikes are possible if Syria uses chemical weapons again.

10:55pm: Syrian state TV has broadcast images of destruction at a scientific research centre near the capital of Damascus that was targeted in airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain.

Pentagon officials say the attacks targeted the heart of Syrian President Bashar Assad's programmess to develop and produce chemical weapons.

The Syrian military says more than one 100 missiles were fired against a military base in Syria's central Homs province and the research centre in Barzeh, near Damascus.

The images shown on Al-Ikhbariya TV are the first of one of the targets. Seen in the footage are piles of rubble outside a destroyed building and a burned vehicle.

The Syrian military says the attack on the centre destroyed an educational centre and labs.

10:43pm: NATO representatives are planning a special session to hear from US, British and French officials about their military strike against Syria.

The alliance briefing is expected later tonight, and NATO's secretary-general has expressed strong support for the coordinated military action aimed at the Syrian governor's chemical weapons programme.

Jens Stoltenberg says the missile strikes will erode the Syrian government's "ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons."

10:35pm: Iran's state-run IRNA news agency says Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called the US-led airstrikes on Syria a "military crime."

He spoke at a meeting with Iranian officials and ambassadors from some Islamic countries.

The report quotes Khamenei as calling the leaders of the United States, Britain and France - the countries that launched the attack - "criminals."

9.50pm: The Russian military says Syria's Soviet-made air defense systems have downed 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched by the United States and its allies.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff says Saturday's strike hasn't caused any casualties and Syrian military facilities targeted by the US, Britain and France have suffered only minor damage.

He says the Russian air defense assets in Syria monitored the strike but didn't engage any of the missiles.

8.26pm: Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced a strike on Syria launched by the United States and its allies as an "act of aggression" that will exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.

In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader says Moscow is calling an emergency meeting of the United Nations' Security Council over the strike launched by the US, Britain and France.

Putin added that the strike had a "destructive influence on the entire system of international relations."

He reaffirmed Russia's view that a purported chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma that prompted the strike 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 strike without waiting for inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog to visit the area.

8.10pm: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has expressed his support for the airstrikes on Syria authorized by Prime Minister Theresa May.

Johnson tweeted Saturday that he welcomed the news of the military strike against major chemical weapons facilities in Syria in concert with "our US and French allies."

Johnson said: "The world is united in its disgust for any use of chemical weapons, but especially against civilians."

May authorized the strikes without a vote from Parliament, which has been in recess. She had received support from her Cabinet in a crisis session.

7.24pm: The Russian military says Syria's Soviet-made air defense systems have shot down all 12 cruise missile aimed at a Syrian air base.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that 12 cruise missiles have been launched at the Dumayr air base east of Damascus.

It said that Syria's air defense assets have downed all of them.

7.04pm: A Syrian military statement says the US, Britain and France fired 110 missiles during a joint attack on targets in Damascus and outside.

Brig. Gen. Ali Mayhoub, who read the statement on Syrian TV, said "our air defenses effectively shot down most of them."

He says one of the missiles hit the Scientific Research Center in Barzeh near Damascus, damaging a building. In Homs, one of the missiles was derailed injuring three people, he said.

Mayhoub says the attacks "will not deter" the Syrian military from its ongoing war to eradicate "armed terrorists" from Syrian territory.

6:48pm: France's foreign minister says the "chemical escalation" in Syria is not acceptable because it's violating the rules of war and of humanity.

Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters Saturday that the joint military operation in Syria is legitimate, limited and proportionate.

6.26pm: Russia says Syria shot down a significant number of the missiles launched in a Western airstrike, using Soviet-designed air-defense systems.

The Defense Ministry said Saturday that more than 100 cruise and air-to-ground missiles were launched.

It did not say how many of the missiles were intercepted by Syrian forces.

6.17pm: France's defense minister says its joint military operation with the U.S. and Britain against Syria targeted three sites and that Russia was informed ahead of time.

Defense Minister Florence Parly told reporters Saturday that the French military sent fighter jets from multiple bases in France and used missile-equipped frigates in the Mediterranean in the operation.

Rafale fighter jets could be seen on a video posted overnight by the French presidential palace on Twitter.

She said strikes targeted the "main research center" for the Syrian chemical weapons program and "two important production sites."

She added that "with our allies, we ensured that the Russians were warned ahead of time.

5.50pm: The British Defense Ministry says four of its Tornado GR4 warplanes fired missiles at a military facility as part of the tripartite attack on Syria.

The ministry says the missiles were fired around 24 kilometers west of Homs, where it was assessed the Syrian regime keeps agents used to make chemical weapons.

The ministry said in a statement Saturday that the warplanes struck the former missile base with Storm Shadow missiles after "very careful analysis" to maximize the destruction of

stockpiled chemicals and to minimize any risk of contamination to the surrounding area.

It said the facility is located "some distance from any known concentration" of civilian residential areas.

5.37pm: Hundreds of Syrians are demonstrating in a landmark square of the Syrian capital, waving victory signs and honking their car horns in a show of defiance.

The demonstrations broke out early Saturday following a wave of US, British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians.

The Syrian government has denied the accusations.

In Damascus, the president's seat of power, hundreds of residents gathered in Omayyad Square, many waving Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags.

Some clapped their hands and danced, others drove in convoys, honking their horns.

"We are your men, Bashar," they shouted.

5.00pm: UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged member countries to "show restraint in these dangerous circumstances" and "avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people".

"Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent," Guterres said.

"The suffering it causes is horrendous. I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"I urge the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and fill this gap."

4.44pm: Syrian state-run TV says three civilians have been wounded in the US-led missile attack on a military base in Homs.

It says the attack was aborted by derailing the incoming missile but adds nonetheless that three people were wounded.

It says another attack with "a number of missiles" targeting a scientific research center destroyed a building and caused other material damage but no human losses.

The network says the building in the research center included an educational center and labs.

4.17pm: NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has releases a statement on the US, UK and French strikes on Syria. She says the government "accepts" the strike but always favours "diplomatic efforts".

“The Government has always favoured diplomatic efforts and a multilateral approach. The use of the veto powers at the Security Council prevented that course of action. We have always condemned the use of the veto, including by Russia in this case," she wrote.

"New Zealand therefore accepts why the US, UK and France have today responded to the grave violation of international law, and the abhorrent use of chemical weapons against civilians.

"The action was intended to prevent further such atrocities being committed against Syrian civilians.

"We stand firm in our condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta. This is clearly in breach of international law.

"It is now important that these issues are returned to the United Nations multilateral processes including the Security Council."

3.55pm: Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has issued a statement on Facebook. She wrote the US strikes on Syria come as the country was entering a chance for peace, and have been instigated off inaccurate media reports on the Assad chemical attack in Douma.

"One must be really exceptional to strike Syria’s capital when the country finally got a chance for a peaceful future," Zakharova wrote.

"The White House said that the confidence in the Damascus standing behind the chemical attack is based on 'the media, reports of symptoms, videos and photos, as well as on credible information'.

"15 years ago, the White House used a test tube and its State Department, now instead of a test tube Washington has used the media."

3.45pm: Syrian State TV is reporting "we have news of shooting down 13 missiles belonging to the US-British-French aggression in the area of Kiswah in the suburbs of Damascus".

3.28pm: At least one US warship located in the Red Sea was involved in today’s strikes according to two US military officials, CNN reports. 

3.14pm: Congressional leaders are supporting President Donald Trump's decision to launch airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad in retaliation for an apparent chemical attack against civilians - although there are some reservations.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is praising Trump's "decisive action in coordination with our allies," adding, "We are united in our resolve."

Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain is applauding the airstrikes but says "they alone will not achieve US objectives in the Middle East".

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says, "One night of airstrikes is not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy".

3.09pm: Syrian TV is reporting that the attack on Syria targeted a scientific research center in Barzeh, near Damascus.

The report says Syria's air defenses confronted the missiles near Homs, and says the airstrikes also targeted an army depot there.

US President Donald Trump announced the airstrikes in retaliation for Syrian President Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons.

Syrian air defenses responded to the joint strikes by the United States, France and Britain

3.05pm: US Defense Secretary James Mattis says today's strikes have "sent a clear message" to Assad and his "murderous lieutenants."

Mattis says military strikes in Syria are "directed at the Syrian regime" and they have "gone to great lengths to avoid civilians and foreign casualties."

He is asking that "responsible nations" join in condemning the Assad regime.

2.53pm: A highly placed Russian politician is likening President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler after the launch of airstrikes against Syria, and says he regards the action as a move against Russia.

Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma's defense committee, says Trump "can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time - because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union."

That's according to state news agency RIA-Novosti. 

2:44pm: All eyes will now be on Russia's response to the strike. Defence Secretary Mattis says Russia had no foreknowledge of the airstrikes in Syria.

The Damascus sky lights up missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital early Saturday, April 14, 2018.
The Damascus sky lights up missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital early Saturday, April 14, 2018. Source: Associated Press

2:40pm: A dramatic image captures missiles streaking over Damascus in Syria.

2:32pm: An ominous tweet.

2:29pm: The British Defence Ministry says "initial indications" show that the airstrikes against Syria produced a "successful attack" on a Syrian military facility.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is describing the attack as neither "about intervening in a civil war" nor "about regime change," but a limited and targeted strike that "does not further escalate tensions in the region" and does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

May says, "We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none."

2:26pm: Mixed messages from the White House and the Pentagon, with President Donald Trump saying this will be a "sustained" attack and Defence Secretary James Mattis saying these are only targeted strikes aimed at taking out chemical weapons.


2:20pm: Defence Secretary James Mattis says the US has no reports of suffering any losses during the initial airstrikes on Syria today.

The story so far:

Loud explosions lit up the skies over the Syrian capital, as Trump announced the airstrikes.

In an announcement from the White House, Trump said the US is prepared to "sustain" pressure on Assad until he ends what the president called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with international banned chemical weapons.

The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump's second order to attack Syria; he authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad's use of sarin gas against civilians.

British Prime Minister Theresa May also issued a statement saying Syria's chemical attack "should surprise no-one".

"The Syrian Regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way," Ms May said.

"A significant body of information including intelligence indicicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack.

"This persistent pattern of behavior must be stopped — not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons.

"We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this.

"But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted.

"Even this week the Russians vetoed a Resolution at the UN Security Council which would have established an independent investigation into the Douma attack.

"So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime."