Two British soldiers have been seriously injured in Syria today following a Daesh missile attack. The Ministry of Defence have yet to confirm the details, but it is being reported that the two soldiers are members of the British army’s special forces.
News of the injuries was reported by two military organisations who are opposed to Daesh, the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units and the Syrian Democratic Forces. The British Government has said that it doesn’t comment on military matters which involve special forces.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has criticised recent Russian involvement in Syria and called on them to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 2401.
In a statement he said:
“I am deeply concerned by the continued military campaign against the civilians of Eastern Ghouta and credible reports that Russian aircraft are actively participating alongside the Asad regime, contrary to the Security Council’s demand in UNSCR 2401 for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. The areas suffering from bombardments are civilian populated areas.
There are reports of a death toll of more than 600 civilians in the last two weeks, including 200 airstrikes and over 100 killed since Russia voted in favour of the ceasefire. All this in an area that, lest we forget, Russia itself announced as a de-escalation zone through the Astana Process.
The main Opposition armed groups on the ground are involved in the UN-led Geneva process and Russia’s own Astana process and have clearly committed to full implementation of the UNSCR. These groups are not terrorists – they support a negotiated political solution to the crisis in Syria. Having voted for UNSCR 2401 less than a week ago, Russia has a responsibility to ensure implementation of the ceasefire.
The people of Eastern Ghouta have endured enough, among broken promises of ceasefires and humanitarian pauses. We demand that Russia and the regime cease hostilities immediately and ensure the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid to Eastern Ghouta and medical evacuations, as called for by the UN Human Rights Council this morning in a UK-proposed Resolution. The people of Eastern Ghouta can wait no longer”.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has spoken to Donald Trump, the US President, about growing concerns that a global trade war may erupt. It comes after Trump said that substantial tariffs would be imposed on a number of sectors, including on steel and aluminium.
The two leaders also discussed the situation in Syria, with the Prime Minister’s spokesperson saying:
“The Prime Minister had a telephone call with President Trump earlier today. They discussed Syria, and the appalling humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta. They agreed it was a humanitarian catastrophe, and that the overwhelming responsibility for the heart-breaking human suffering lay with the Syrian regime and Russia, as the regime’s main backer. They agreed that Russia and others with influence over the Syrian regime must act now to cease their campaign of violence and to protect civilians.
The Prime Minister raised our deep concern at the President’s forthcoming announcement on steel and aluminium tariffs, noting that multilateral action was the only way to resolve the problem of global overcapacity in all parties’ interests”.
The Ministry of Defence has issued an update on the fight against Daesh and the air strikes which the UK is conducting in partnership with other nations. They confirmed that progress is being made and that Daesh are being driven back in both Iraq and Syria.
The department said in a statement:
“With Daesh having suffered major defeats in both Iraq and Syria, Royal Air Force missions continue daily, focused on armed reconnaissance to identify remaining terrorist locations and support, as necessary, clearance operations on the ground by Iraqi troops and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The SDF have continued their operations against extremists south-east of Al Mayadin, in eastern Syria, and an RAF Reaper provided close air support to them on Thursday 16 November. The first terrorist threat that the Reaper’s crew identified was a vehicle being driven at very high speed towards the SDF positions. Fearing this to be a probable truck-bomb, the Reaper’s crew tracked the lorry, ready to engage. However, no intervention was necessary, as the driver lost control of the vehicle, which crashed off the road and promptly exploded; it had indeed been a truck-bomb. The Reaper subsequently spotted a group of terrorists opening fire on the SDF; a GBU-12 guided bomb quickly eliminated this threat.
On Saturday 18 November, Tornados from RAF Akrotiri patrolled over north-west Iraq. Another coalition aircraft identified a Daesh truck, loaded with equipment, concealed under cover some 35 miles west of Sharaq. The Tornados were requested to conduct an attack with the very precise Brimstone missile, and did so successfully, destroying the vehicle.
Intelligence identified a complex of buildings in northern Iraq, some 30 miles west of Sharqat, as a truck-bomb factory. Two Typhoons bombed the target site with six Paveway IV guided bombs on Wednesday 22 November; two weapons demolished a large workshop, while single bombs dealt with the four other, smaller buildings”.
The Foreign Office have confirmed that Martin Longden has been appointed as the UK’s Special Envoy to Syria, a role he will take up nearly immediately. Longden replaces Gareth Bayley and he will also continue in his current role as Head of Near East Department.
Longden said in a statement:
“I look forward to representing the UK to drive forward a holistic approach to Syria and the region, while maintaining strong links with the Syrian opposition.
The only lasting solution is a political transition that can protect the rights of all Syrians, unite the country and end the conflict. The UK will continue to play a key role in the international efforts to bring peace to all Syrians”.
Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, said:
“The UK is working tirelessly to bring a peaceful solution to the Syria conflict. There can be no military solution to this tragedy, and neither Syria nor the region can be properly stabilised until we see a genuine transition to a new government in Damascus. Martin’s extensive diplomatic experience will ensure he is well prepared to continue our efforts towards a political solution in Syria”.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has repeated that Britain may support future US military campaigns in Syria. The US launched a missile attack in early April 2017 in response to a chemical weapons attack, with future attacks remaining possible.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme Johnson said:
“I think it would be very difficult if the US has a proposal to have some sort of action in response to a chemical weapons attack. If they come to us and ask for our support – whether it’s with submarine-based cruise missiles in the Med… in my view – and I know it’s also the view of the Prime Minister, it would be difficult for us to say no”.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has spoken on the phone to Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, following the chemical attacks in Syria.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said in a statement:
“The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada last night to discuss events in Syria following the chemical weapons attack and the US airstrikes, and to look ahead to the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting this week.
They agreed on their support for the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime.
And they discussed the importance of Russia using its influence to bring about a political settlement in Syria, and to work with the rest of the international community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated.
They noted that the Foreign Secretary is working closely with his Canadian counterpart as part of diplomatic efforts to line up G7 and like-minded support for a clear international position on the way ahead, in support of the US Secretary of State’s visit to Moscow.
And they agreed to continue this close cooperation as we build support for a political solution to end the conflict and bring lasting peace and stability to Syria”.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has spoken to Donald Trump, the US President, on the phone following the chemical attacks which took place in Syria.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said in a statement:
“Theresa May tonight spoke with US President Trump to discuss last week’s chemical weapons attack in Syria and the US response.
The President thanked the Prime Minister for her support in the wake of last week’s US military action against the Assad regime.
The Prime Minister and the President agreed that a window of opportunity now exists in which to persuade Russia that its alliance with Assad is no longer in its strategic interest.
They agreed that US Secretary of State Tillerson’s visit to Moscow this week provides an opportunity to make progress towards a solution which will deliver a lasting political settlement.
They also discussed the broader Middle East, including the threat posed by Iran throughout the region.
The Prime Minister and President also stressed the importance of the international community, including China, putting pressure on North Korea to constrain the threat it poses”.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party, and Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, are at odds over whether to support the US’s military attack on Syria. The attack, which has been backed by the British Government, came in response to a chemical attack that the Syrian Government was alleged to have authorised.
Corbyn said in a statement:
“The US missile attack on a Syrian government air base risks escalating the war in Syria still further.
Tuesday’s horrific chemical attack was a war crime which requires urgent independent UN investigation and those responsible must be held to account. But unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. What is needed instead is to urgently reconvene the Geneva peace talks and unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
“The terrible suffering of the Syrian people must be brought to an end as soon as possible and every intervention must be judged on what contribution it makes to that outcome. The British government should urge restraint on the Trump administration and throw its weight behind peace negotiations and a comprehensive political settlement”.
Watson had earlier said that the US attacks were “direct and proportionate as chemical weapons attacks on civilians can never be tolerated and must have consequences”.
Matthew Rycroft, the UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, has confirmed that the British Government backs yesterday’s US military action in Syria.
In a statement Rycroft said:
“The United Kingdom supports the U.S. air strike on the Al Shayrat airfield because war crimes have consequences. And the greatest war criminal of all, Bashar al Assad, has now been put on notice.
The US strike was a proportionate response to unspeakable acts that gave rise to overwhelming humanitarian distress. It was also a strong effort to save lives, by ensuring that such acts never happen again”.