Macron says Syria strikes ordered after France's red line on chemical weapons crossed

French Rafale fighter jets prepare to take off on April 13, 2018, from the Saint-Dizier military base in France.
French Rafale fighter jets prepare to take off on April 13, 2018, from the Saint-Dizier military base in France.PHOTO: REUTERS/ECPAD

PARIS (REUTERS, XINHUA) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday (April 14) that he had ordered a military intervention in Syria alongside the United States and Britain in an attack on the chemical weapons arsenal of the country's regime.

US President Donald Trump said earlier that he had ordered precision strikes targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons capabilities after a poison gas attack that killed at least 60 people last week.

Mr Macron said the attack had been limited so far to Syria's chemical weapons facilities.

“I ordered the French armed forces to intervene tonight, as part of an international operation conducted in coalition with the United States of America and the United Kingdom and directed against the clandestine chemical arsenal of the Syrian regime,” Mr Macron said.

 “Our response has been limited to the capabilities of the Syrian regime for the production and use of chemical weapons,” he said.

"We cannot tolerate the recurring use of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and our collective security," a statement from the Elysee presidential office said.

"On April 7, dozens of men, women and children were massacred in Douma, with the use of a chemical weapon in a total violation of international rules... The red line established by France in May 2017 was crossed," Mr Macron said.

He added that the facts and the responsibility of the Syrian regime were beyond doubt.

British Prime Minister Theresa May also said she had authorised British forces to conduct strikes against Syria.

Mr Macron, who tweeted a picture of himself in a meeting room with military and diplomatic advisers, said a debate about France's military involvement would take place in Parliament.

The French presidency issued a video on Twitter showing what it said were Rafale war planes taking off in an intervention against the chemical weapons facilities of the Syrian regime.

It was not immediately clear whether the planes were taking off from an aircraft carrier or a military base on land.

The Elysee presidential palace did not specify where the planes were taking off and provided no further details.

French Mirage and Rafale fighter jets were involved in air strikes on Syria together with four frigate warships, a presidency source said on Saturday. This included an air defence frigate, three multi-mission frigates, Mirage 2000 jets, Rafale jets, AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) and support and supply assistance, the source said. 

The strikes were aimed at a research centre and two production sites, the source said. 

The air strikes are over but the military is ready to act upon request, the source said.