(FOX5NY.COM) - President Donald Trump on Friday announced that he approved U.S. military strikes on targets linked to the chemical weapons program of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Trump said the U.S. was part of a joint operation with France and the United Kingdom in response to the suspected chemical gas attack from the Assad regime on a rebel-held town near Damascus last weekend.
Loud explosions lit up the skies over Damascus, the AP reported. Heavy smoke was also seen. An AP photographer captured images of streaks of light in the sky.
"To Iran and to Russia I ask, what kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children," Trump said, referring to Syria's allies. "The nations of the world can be judged by the friends that they keep. Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or continue with civilized nations."
French President Emmanuel Macron said the operation is currently targeting the "clandestine chemical arsenal" in Syria. He said that the attack on civilians in Douma crossed France's "red line." Although Assad's government denied responsibility, Macron said he has "no doubt" that the Syrian regime was behind the attack.
British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement confirming the United Kingdom's involvement in the strikes.
"This evening I have authorized British armed forces to conduct coordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime's chemical weapons capability and deter their use," she wrote in the statement.
The airstrikes resulted in a "successful attack" on a Syrian military facility, according to the British defense ministry.
"Clearly, the Assad regime did not get the message last year. This time, our allies and we have struck harder," U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said. "Together, we have sent a clear message to Assad, and his murderous lieutenants, that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable."
Mattis said the airstrikes targeted the regime and that the coalition forces went to "great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties."