The Defense Department said Friday night that U.S., British and French forces struck three Syrian facilities that officials believe play a key role in Syria’s ability to research, produce and store chemical weapons.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called it a “heavy strike” that was broader than the attack President Trump ordered one year ago that targeted an airfield. Friday night’s strike aimed at the “long-term degradation” of Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities.
“We used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year,” Mattis told reporters gathered for a late evening briefing at the Pentagon. “Right now this is a one-time shot.”
The allied strike, with included manned U.S. aircraft, last about an hour and prompted the Syrian regime to retaliate by shooting surface-to-air missiles, said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Syrian state TV claimed the regime had shot down 13 U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles. But Dunford said the U.S. was still reviewing the results.
“The only reaction that I’m aware of at this time is Syrian surface-to-air missiles … I’m not aware of any Russia activity and I’m not aware of the full scope of the Syrian regime response at this time,” Dunford said.
The Pentagon was expected to give another detailed brief on the strike on Saturday morning.
Dunford confirmed that the U.S. used a deconfliction communication line to warn the Russians to remain out of the airspace around the target sites. But he said the U.S. did not share any targets with the Russians, and Moscow might not have known the warnings were connected to the chemical weapons strikes.
The deconfliction line is used regularly in Syria where the U.S. has been fighting the Islamic State and must work with the Russians to avoid any accidents or clashes.