A photo released by Syria's government-owned news agency SANA shows 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, April 14, 2018. Photo by SANA/UPI | License Photo
April 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. said Saturday its airstrikes against Syria were successful while Syrian allies Iran and Russia argue the attack was a violation of international law.
The U.S., Great Britain and France fired 105 missiles at three sites in Syria early Saturday morning local time, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the joint chiefs of staff, said Saturday at the Pentagon. The U.S. and its allies launched the strikes over concerns that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out a chemical attack against civilians in the rebel-held town of Douma last weekend that killed more than 70 people, U.S. President Donald Trump said in an address to the nation Friday night.
The U.S. has said the strikes targeted a research center in greater Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility and another storage facility and command center, both in Homs.
Calling it a "proportional" attack, McKenzie said Saturday the strikes destroyed "fundamental components" of Syria's chemical weapons infrastructure and "dealt them a severe blow."
"It does not exist anymore," McKenzie said of the research facility. "They've lost a lot of equipment. They've lost a lot of material."
When asked about the possibility that airstrikes may have caused leakage of chemical agents, McKenzie said "we were able to minimize that," but said there were "probably some chemical agents" present.
He added that the U.S. military is not aware of any civilian deaths.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, both Assad allies, have condemned the strikes.
Khamenei said on Twitter early Saturday the U.S. and its allies were committing a crime.
"I firmly declare that the Presidents of U.S. and France and British PM committed a major crime," he said. "They will gain no benefit; just as they did not while in Iraq, Syria & Afghanistan, over the past years, committing the same criminal acts."
Putin similarly said the airstrikes violated international law.
"Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria, where Russian military personnel are assisting the legitimate government in its counterterrorism efforts," Putin said in a statement.
Putin added Russia would convene an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council in response. At an 11 a.m. Security Council meeting Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged nations "to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate matters and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people."
Russia's Ministry of Defense claimed Syria's air defense systems intercepted 71 missiles launched in the airstrikes. But McKenzie said Saturday he hasn't seen any indication that Russian air defense systems were used, calling Syria's response "indiscriminate" and mostly futile.
"No Syrian weapon had any effect on what we did," McKenzie said.
Putin said Russian investigators have found no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma. He criticized the U.S, Britain and France for declining to wait until after the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons completes its own investigation there. The organization has previously determined that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.
"An act of aggression against a sovereign state that is on the frontline in the fight against terrorism was committed without a mandate from the UN Security Council and in violation of the UN Charter and norms and principles of international law," Putin said.