Targeted airstrikes early Saturday morning against three Syrian chemical weapons facilities took out "fundamental components of the regime's chemical weapons warfare infrastructure" and set Syria's programs back "for years," Pentagon officials said during a briefing Saturday morning.
But the attacks didn't represent an effort to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, they said.
"We took every measure and precaution to strike only what we targeted and what we successfully hit every target this operation does not represent a change in U.S. policy nor an attempt to depose the Syrian regime," Pentagon senior spokesperson Dana White told reporters.
However, she added, the United States is not seeking conflict in Syria, but "we cannot allow such violations of international law" as occured on April 7, when a rebel-held suburb of Damascus was attacked, killing dozens of people, including women and children.
The targets included a search and development center, a chemical weapons storage facility, and a chemical weapons bunker facility, said Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.
"As you can see for yourself from the graphics, initial assessments are that this target was destroyed," he told reporters. "This is going to set the Syrian chemical weapons program back for years. And you also note that we've successfully destroyed three buildings in metropolitan Damascus, one of the most heavily defended aerospace areas in the world."
Targets were selected carefully to minimize risk to innocent civilians, McKenzie said.
The United States was joined in its airstrikes by the United Kingdom and France, "who demonstrated solidarity in addressing these atrocities," White said.
White also repeated the United States' call to Russia to ensure the Assad regime dismantles its chemical weapons program and never uses them again.
McKenzie said that with the first target — the search and development center located in the greater Damar area — " forces employed 76 missiles, 57 of which were Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles and 19 were joint air to surface standoff missiles."
Twenty-two weapons were used against the second target, the chemical weapons storage facility, said McKenzie, including British Storm Shadow missiles, along with naval and land cruise missiles.
Tomahawk missiles, the Storm Shadow missiles and French missiles went against the chemical weapons bunker facility.
"The missiles that I've just described were delivered from British, French, and U.S. air and naval platforms in the Red Sea, the northern Arabian Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean," said McKenzie. "All weapons hit their targets at very close to the designated time on target of about 4 a.m. In Syria which of course is 9 p.m. here on the East Coast."
The Pentagon said none of the missiles filed by the U.S. and its allies were deflected by Syrian air defenses, rebutting claims by the Russian and Syrian governments.
"None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses," said McKenzie, deflecting claims by Russia, which said Syria's Soviet-made defense systems downed 71 of the 103 cruise missiles that were launched.
He said the Pentagon has assessed, though, that more than 40 surface-to-air missiles were employed by the Syrian regime, and that most of them occurred "after the last impact of our strike was over."
"It is likely that the regime shot many of these missiles on a ballistic trajectory, I mean by that without guidance," he said. "We assess the defensive efforts of Syria were largely ineffective and clearly increase risk to their own people based on the response."
Later in the briefing, McKenzie pointed out that he didn't say Russia's air defenses were not turned on, but still, they were not deployed. He also denied that there was any coordination or agreements with Russia before the strikes to ensure the missiles raining down on the chemical weapons facilities weren't intercepted.
"We did nothing more than that and I want to say to the best of our ability to determine at this time no Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did," said McKenzie.
"By contrast, the precise nature of our strike and the care which our allied team planned and executed significantly reduced the risk of collateral damage to civilians," said McKenzie. "This strike was double the size of the last strike in April 2017 and I'd also emphasize that this strike was a multi-national effort."
McKenzie said the Pentagon is not aware of any civilian casualties, but as the Syrians put up 40 large missiles, "those missiles came down somewhere and so we should just recognize that's apart of this equation too."
White, when asked if there could have been a chemical agent cloud from the strikes, commented that the forces "were able to minimize that" with the way they conducted the attack profile.
"We believe that we successfully mitigated against the fact that there are illegal and unauthorized weapons at these sites," White said.
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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