US missiles strike Syria, oil hits one-month high

PALM BEACH/MOSCOW/BEIRUT: US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base were one step away from clashing with the Russian military, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev charged on Friday, underscoring the risks in US President Donald Trump’s first major foray into the Syrian civil war.
US officials informed Russian forces ahead of the strikes, which were intended to punish the Syrian government for what they said was a chemical weapons attack, and avoided hitting Russian personnel.
In the biggest foreign policy decision of his presidency, Trump ordered a step his predecessor Barack Obama never took: targeting the Syrian military.
Washington says Syrian government forces carried out a poison gas attack in northern Syria this week that killed at least 70 people.
The US action catapulted Washington into confrontation with Russia, which has military advisers on the ground aiding its ally, President Bashar al Assad.
Satellite imagery suggests the Shayrat air base that was struck by dozens of US missiles is home to Russian special forces and military helicopters, part of the Kremlin’s effort to help the Syrian government fight IS and other militant groups.
“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said as he announced the attack from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he was meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack,” he said, adding: “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
Assad’s office said Damascus would respond by striking its enemies harder.
US officials said the strike was a “one-off” intended to deter future chemical weapons attacks, and not an expansion of the US role in the Syria war.
Tomahawk missiles fired from the USS Porter and USS Ross struck the airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations on the air base, which the Pentagon says was used to store chemical weapons.
The Syrian government and Moscow have denied that Syrian forces were behind the gas attack, but Western countries have dismissed their explanation that chemicals leaked from a rebel weapons depot after an air strike as not credible.
The Syrian army said the US attack killed six people and called it “blatant aggression” which made the United States a partner of “terrorist groups” including IS.
Oil traded near a one-month high on Friday after the US missile strike on a Syrian air base while the dollar rose as investors dismissed a weak US jobs report as not enough to derail a strong economy or outlook for rising interest rates. Gold, a safe-haven asset, climbed to a five-month high and benchmark US Treasury yields briefly slid to four-month lows.
US crude rose 51 cents to $52.21 a barrel and Brent was last up 39 cents to $55.28. Spot gold added 1.2 per cent to $1,265.70 an ounce. — Agencies