RAF Tornados Strike Syria After Douma Gas Attack
British Forces Join International Retaliation Against Syrian Regime
At 0200 UK time on 14 April, the Royal Air Force (RAF) joined close Allies in a precision strike on Syrian installations involved in the regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people. The strike was launched as a response to the chemical weapon attack on 7 April in Douma which killed up to 75 people, including young children; a significant body of information, including intelligence, indicates that the Syrian regime was responsible for this latest attack.
Ministry of Defence Claims Attack is Proportionate
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said that the action is proportionate because it was specifically aimed at degrading the Syrian regime’s ability to use chemical weapons by focusing on regime facilities linked to the production and use of chemical weapons, with the intention of deterring further such acts.
As the British Prime Minister has made clear, this pattern of behaviour must be stopped, not just to protect innocent people in Syria from these horrific weapons, but also because the erosion cannot be allowed of the international norms that prevent the use of chemical weapons.
Storm Shadow Strikes Near Homs
The UK element of the carefully co-ordinated joint action was contributed by four RAF Tornado GR4s. They launched Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility – a former missile base – some fifteen miles west of Homs, where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Very careful scientific analysis was applied to determine where best to target the Storm Shadows to maximise the destruction of the stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks of contamination to the surrounding area. The facility which was struck is located some distance from any known concentrations of civilian habitation, reducing yet further any such risk.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
The reprehensible use of chemical weapons in Douma is further evidence of the Syrian regime’s appalling cruelty against its own people. We will not stand by whilst innocent civilians, including women and children, are killed and made to suffer. The international community has responded decisively with legal and proportionate military force. Let these united actions send a clear message to the regime – the use of chemical weapons is categorically unacceptable and you will be held to account.
Detailed analysis of the effectiveness of the strike is currently underway, but initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack.
Image: RAF Tornado GR4, RAF Coningsby, by SAC Graham Taylor (Crown Copyright).