America, the UK and France launch their first airstrikes against Syria

America, the UK and France launch their first airstrikes against Syria

After another round of chemical attacks against Syrian people in the town of Douma last week, the United States and their allies have issued an emphatic response by launching their first airstrikes on Syria, as Russia promises retaliation and civilians around the globe hold their collective breath.

Last Saturday (April 7), attempts by the Syrian government to defeat rebel forces in the country came to a horrible, and potentially historic, head. Douma had been under attack by forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, launching an assault back in February that left 1,700 civilians dead.

In March, rebel forces were split into three and evacuated, but the rebel group in charge of Douma, Jaysh al-Islam, stood firm. On April 6, government negotiations with Jaysh al-Islam stalled, and the next day, aerial bombardment led to that chemical attack, which Syrian activists, medics and rescue workers say have left more than 40 people dead.

Amidst the horror, US president Donald Trump reacted angrily to the attack in a tweet, labelling Assad "a Gas Killing Animal" and promising that American retaliation in the form of missiles would "be coming". Early this morning, the president made good on his promise.

Along with allies in France and the United Kingdom, a Pentagon briefing from General Joseph Dunford said that airstrikes were carried out on the Syrian capital of Damascus, as well as two strikes near to the city of Homs. In a statement to the nation, Donald Trump confirmed the attack, reaffirming his hope that this would deter future use of chemical weapons.

"The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality. The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons."

Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, also took a moment to put her support behind the airstrikes, while her French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, posted on Twitter that a "red line has been crossed" by Syrian forces with their attack one week ago today.

Macron's full tweet reads: "Last Saturday 7 April 2018, in Douma, dozens of men, women and children were massacred by chemical weapons. A red line has been crossed. Therefore I have ordered French armed forces to intervene."

Ahead of the attacks, Russia announced that they would shoot down any missiles aimed at Syria, and in the wake of the attacks, Russia's ambassador to the United States say the airstrikes "will not be left without consequences". President Vladimir Putin stated that he "condemns the attack in the most serious way", but Nato Secretary General, Jen Stoltenberg, tweeted his support, agreeing that those who used chemical weapons "must be held accountable".

As the dust settles on the most significant attack on Syrian soil by Western forces, it remains to be seen the long-reaching effects of this series of airstrikes. Will this be the first step toward ending the pain and suffering in Syria? Or will Russia's response mean we are edging ever closer to World War III?