British Prime Minister Theresa May said there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force” to stop the use of alleged use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad, as the UK joined the US and France in launching strikes against targets in Syria associated with the use of such substances.
As explosions were being from several locations in Syria, Ms May said she had sought to use every diplomatic channel to avoid the use of force.
“This persistent pattern of behaviour must be stopped – not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons,” she said.
“This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.”
Mrs May said the action would also send a “clear signal” to anyone else who believed they could use chemical weapons “with impunity”.
She said: “This is the first time as Prime Minister that I have had to take the decision to commit our armed forces in combat – and it is not a decision I have taken lightly.
“I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britain’s national interest.
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“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.”
Earlier on Friday, the UK cabinet agreed “on the need to take action” in Syria to “deter the further use of chemical weapons”, Downing Street said.
Ministers at a cabinet meeting said it was “highly likely” the Assad regime was responsible for a suspected chemical attack.
They agreed that the use of chemical weapons must not “go unchallenged”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the government of “waiting for instructions” from US President Donald Trump and said military action was unlikely to solve the situation in Syria.
He said: “More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life. It will just take more lives and spawn the war elsewhere.”