TEL AVIV – Israel was informed of the U.S.-led military strikes in Syria ahead of time, Israeli and American officials confirmed on Saturday morning.
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 military assault was a response to the chemical weapons 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.
Asked how much advance warning Israel had received, an unnamed official told Reuters, “Between 12 and 24 hours, I believe.”
Asked whether Israel was consulted when selecting the targets, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Not to my knowledge.”
He added that the strikes were an appropriate response to the “murderous actions” of the Assad regime.
“Last year, President Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line,” the official said.
“Syria continues to engage in and provide a base for murderous actions, including those of Iran, that put its territory, its forces and its leadership at risk,” the official added.
A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy confirmed that Israel was informed of the action ahead of time.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday said Israel “fully supports” President Donald Trump’s “stand against the use and spread of chemical weapons.”
“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 said.
Netanyahu continued, “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.
“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,” the prime minister said.
The chemical weapons facilities that were targeted 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.”
Trump announced the joint operation on Friday, saying it was a direct response to the toxic gas atttack.
“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 said the strikes were a “one-time shot” and that there was 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.”