Britain had no alternative but to take military action to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capability, Prime Minister Theresa May says, after ordering air-launched cruise missile strikes along with the US and France.
Four Royal Air Force Tornado jets from the Akrotiri base in Cyprus fired Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility near Homs where it was assessed that Syria had stockpiled chemicals, Britain's Ministry of Defence said on Saturday.
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Ms May cast the strike as "limited and targeted" and came after intelligence indicated Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's government was responsible for an attack using chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Douma a week ago.
Ms May said the missile strike, designed to minimise civilian casualties, was aimed at deterring further use of chemical weapons and was not an attempt to topple the Syrian government.
"This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change," Ms May said in statement made from her country residence at Chequers just minutes after US President Donald Trump announced the strikes from the White House.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the mission had been highly successful and implied that no further action was imminent.
"We don't expect that we'll be a position where we're having to make further strikes," he told LBC radio.
"We believe that the strikes we have taken last night had a significant impact in terms of what the Syrian regime can do in the future."
However, Russian military officers told media 71 of 103 missiles fired at Syria were intercepted.
"All together, 103 cruise missiles were deployed," senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi said at a briefing in Moscow.
"Seventy-one cruise missiles were intercepted."
By launching strikes without prior approval from parliament, Ms May dispensed with a non-binding constitutional convention dating back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She said speed was essential and that military action was in the national interest.
Ms May, whose government is propped up by a small Northern Irish party, said Britain and the West had an obligation to deter both Mr Assad and others from using chemical weapons after the poison gas attack in Douma near Damascus killed up to 75 people, including children, last Saturday.
However, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a fervent anti-war campaigner, called the strikes "legally questionable" and said Ms May should have recalled parliament from a holiday and "not trailed after Donald Trump".
"Bombs won't save lives or bring about peace," he said in a statement.
"Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm's way."
Britain has accused Russia of being behind last month's nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, southern England - a charge Moscow has denied.
"While this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity," Ms May said.
"We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised - within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world."
Reuters / Newshub.