Western nations fire missiles at Syria

Big hitters: The three Western countries fired 105 missiles at 4am Syrian time on Saturday. © Getty

Were we right to strike Syria? The US, the UK and France attacked the country, dealing a blow to its ability to make chemical weapons. What comes next is far from clear…

What’s happening

On Saturday, the UK, the US and France fired missiles at buildings in Syria used in making chemical weapons. They ordered the strikes after chemical weapons were apparently used in a deadly attack on the Syrian city of Douma. Western countries blame the Syrian regime, which denies responsibility.

Find out more

Chemical weapons — toxic substances used to hurt and kill big groups of people — are banned under international law. They are seen as nastier than ordinary weapons.

The ban has not stopped Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad from using such weapons several times in his country’s seven-year civil war. Douma was held by rebels, who are fighting Assad. US officials are “confident” that chemical weapons were dropped on the city.

The strikes on Saturday are said to have destroyed “the heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons programme. However, the three Western allies were careful to avoid hitting troops belonging to Syria or its ally Russia. They said that they were not trying to change the direction of Syria’s war.

Were they right to strike?

Some say…

Of course. We have let Assad get away with chemical attacks for too long — diplomacy has gotten us nowhere. Saturday’s strikes sent a clear message, without doing any wider damage. They were powerful, precise and fair, and did not needlessly kill anyone. We should be proud of standing up for justice.

Others think…

Now what? These strikes may not even have destroyed all Assad’s chemical weapons. If he uses them again, we have to either order another useless strike or do something bigger, risking war with powerful Russia. And if he doesn’t, he will keep massacring his own people anyway. Saturday’s attack was not properly thought through.

You Decide

  1. Does it make sense to ban chemical weapons but not other weapons?

Activities

  1. Write a letter to someone your age in Douma, asking them how they feel about current events.

Some People Say...

“Politics is war without bloodshed.”

Mao Zedong

What do you think?

Word Watch

Regime
Another word for “government”.
Toxic
Poisonous.
Civil war
A war between different groups in one country.
Rebels
People fighting against the government.
Diplomacy
The process by which countries try to manage their relations without violence.
Massacring
Brutally killing.

Subjects

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