By AP fileBy AP fileWASHINGTON (AP) The U.S. and Britain on Wednesday struck the Syrian military’s main chemical weapons research and development facility, destroying it for the first time in more than a decade and marking a major victory for President Bashar Assad’s government.
The move to attack the Syrian Defense Ministry’s main weapons complex marked a sharp escalation of U.K. and U.A.E. air attacks that have hit Syria since March.
The British military said it had fired 59 missiles at the facility, which is located in a suburb of Damascus near the Lebanese border, killing dozens of people, including more than 20 civilians.
The U.N. weapons inspector said earlier Wednesday that the facility had been the focus of two of four U.L.N.-sponsored chemical weapons inspectors that visited the site last month.
The inspectors were unable to enter because of the fighting.
The United States has been bombing the Syrian government in an attempt to dislodge the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for more than three years.
military says it has carried out more than 70,000 airstrikes since the beginning of the civil war in 2011.
A U.P. source said the strike was the first major action by the United States and Britain since the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on July 25 to approve a plan to send U.C. Berkeley chemical weapons expert Hans Blix to Syria.
Britain is not a member of the U.U.N.’s chemical weapons watchdog, and Britain said it has been trying to negotiate with the U-N.
mission to bring Blix into the country.
Britain’s Foreign Office said it was “committed to working closely with the international community to ensure that any future U.R.O. mission can fulfil its mandate.”