TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday said Israel “fully supports” President Donald Trump’s “stand against the use and spread of chemical weapons” with the U.S.-led airstrikes on Syrian targets carried out earlier that day.
Netanyahu added that “Trump’s resolve and Israel’s support remain unchanged” since last year, when the U.S. conducted strikes in the war-torn country after a sarin gas attack.
“This morning, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom demonstrated that their commitment to the fight against chemical weapons is not limited to declarations,” he added.
“It should be clear to President Assad that his reckless efforts to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, his wanton disregard for international law and his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endanger Syria.”
In a joint operation with the UK and France, chemical weapons sites, including a storage facility and a research base, were targeted in the pre-dawn hours, constituting the largest military intervention since the Syrian civil war began.
The sites were reported to have been evacuated in recent days. Russia’s defense ministry said there were “no victims.”
Nevertheless, the strikes were designed to set back Syria’s chemical weapons program “for years,” according to a senior Pentagon official, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie.
After some Israeli lawmakers came out in support of the missile strikes, Netanyahu’s office issued a directive of silence. Channel 10 reported that the order was the result of a comment by Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, who said that the strikes sent “an important signal to the axis of evil — Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.”
Galant tweeted that “the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line that humanity is no longer willing to accept.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid also hailed the strikes. “Despite the limited nature of the strike, after a period of silence the civilized world sent a clear message to Assad that it won’t remain silent while he murders children,” Lapid said. “The real test now is the coalition’s ability to maintain the military and diplomatic pressure on the dictator from Damascus. Israel will continue to act against the Iranian presence in Syria and won’t take orders from any regional actor when it comes to our vital security interests.”
An unnamed senior Israeli official said that the joint military operation was an “appropriate” response to the chemical gas attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week, in which 42 people died and many others were left gasping for breath and foaming at the mouth.
“Last year, President Trump made it clear that using chemical weapons crossed a red line. Tonight, led by the Americans, the U.S., France and Britain acted appropriately,” said a statement from the official.
“Syria continues to carry out murderous actions and to be a base for these and other actions, including by Iran, that puts its territory, forces and leadership in danger,” the statement said.
Israel was notified of the assault ahead of time, Israeli and U.S. officials confirmed on Saturday morning.
Trump announced the joint operation on Friday, saying it was a direct response to the toxic gas attack.
“The evil and despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,” Trump said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strikes a “one-time shot” and said there is no additional action planned for the immediate future. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also confirmed that there were no further strikes in the pipeline.
On Saturday, Trump praised the strikes, which the Pentagon said were “successful.”
“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.
“Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
In response, Assad vowed the American-led “aggression” will only “make Syria and its people more determined to keep fighting and crushing terrorism in every inch of the country.”
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the leaders of the military assault as “criminals.”