The United States, France and Britain launched military strikes in Syria to punish regime leader Bashar al Assad for an apparent chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again, President Donald Trump announced.

Syrian regime forces 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. (April 14, 2018)
Syrian regime forces 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. (April 14, 2018) (Reuters)

The Russian ambassador to the United States has condemned US-led air strikes on Syria, which he said pose a threat to Russia.

Anatoly Antonov said in a statement on Friday (US eastern time) that Russia had warned that "such actions will not be left without consequences" and "all responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris."

Overnight, US, British and French forces launched more than 100 missiles from ships and manned aircraft, targeting three of Syria's main chemical weapons facilities.

The strikes were a response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Douma last Saturday (April 7), which killed dozens of civilians.

Syria and its ally Russia denied the alleged attack took place. Moscow on Friday accused Britain of helping to stage the Douma incident to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

The chairman of the international affairs committee of Russia's upper house of parliament, Konstantin Kosachev, said the strikes were a violation of international law and probably designed to prevent investigators from the global chemical weapons watchdog from doing their work.

"It's ... highly likely an attempt to create complications for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) mission which was just starting its work in Syria's Douma, or an attempt to completely derail it," Interfax on Saturday quoted Kosachev as saying.

A team of inspectors from the OPCW arrived in Syria on Thursday and Friday. They had been expected to start their investigation into the alleged Douma attack on Saturday.

Russia calls UN Security Council meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the US-led missile attack on Syria and has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

Putin said the US actions in Syria made the humanitarian catastrophe there worse and caused pain for civilians. He also said the actions had damaged international relations.

Syrians gather in defiance

Hundreds of Syrians gathered at landmark squares in the capital Damascus, following the strikes. They honked car horns, flashed victory signs and waved Syrian flags in support of the Assad regime.

Damascus condemned what it called the "brutal, barbaric aggression" by the US and its allies, adding that the strikes would hinder the OPCW probe into the alleged gas attack in Douma that prompted Saturday's attack.

"Good souls will not be humiliated," the Syrian regime tweeted after the air strikes began.

Syrians with flags in support of Bashar al Assad, on Umayyad Square in Damascus, April 14, 2018.
Syrians with flags in support of Bashar al Assad, on Umayyad Square in Damascus, April 14, 2018. (AFP)

Turkey welcomes strikes

Turkey welcomed the air strikes targeting the Assad regime as an "appropriate reaction" in retaliation for the suspected chemical attack that left dozens dead.

"We welcome this operation that articulates the conscience of all humanity in the face of the Douma attack which has a strong suspicion of being carried out by the regime," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Tripartite aggression"

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced US Trump, France's Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Theresa May, branding them "criminals".

Iran also warned of "regional consequences".

"The United States and its allies have no proof and, without even waiting for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] to take a position, have carried out this military attack," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iran provides the Assad regime with military advisers and "volunteer" ground forces.

Anti-aircraft fire on the outskirts of Damascus after Western strikes reportedly hit Syrian military bases and chemical research centres in and around the capital. Photo supplied by Syrian regime news agency, SANA, April 14, 2018.
Anti-aircraft fire on the outskirts of Damascus after Western strikes reportedly hit Syrian military bases and chemical research centres in and around the capital. Photo supplied by Syrian regime news agency, SANA, April 14, 2018. (AFP)

UN urges restraint

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for restraint and for countries to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation in Syria after the United States, France and Britain carried out the strikes.

"I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people," Guterres said in a statement.

"Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent. The suffering it causes is horrendous," Guterres said.

NATO chief backs air strikes

"I support the actions taken by the United States, the United Kingdom and France against the Syrian regime's chemical weapons facilities and capabilities," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.   

"This will reduce the regime's ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons," he added.   

Israel says chemical attack crossed 'red line'

The US-led strikes against the Syrian regime were an "important signal" to Assad, Iran, and the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said on Saturday.

"The use of chemical weapons crosses a red line that humanity can no longer tolerate," Yoav Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, wrote on Twitter.

Hezbollah condemns air strikes

Hezbollah condemned the air strikes in Syria, where the Iran-backed Lebanese group backs the Assad regime.

"America's war against Syria, and against the region's peoples and resistance movement, will not achieve its aims," Hezbollah said in a statement published on its War Media Channel.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies