United States President Donald Trump on Friday ordered missile strikes against Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held Douma town by the Bashar al-Assad regime, Reuters reported. The US president said the precision strikes targeted chemical weapon sites in Syria.

As Trump made the announcement, loud explosions were heard over the Syrian Capital, Damascus. Syrian media reported that a scientific research centre in Barzah near Damascus and army depot near Homs were targeted, AP reported.

The strikes were underway in a joint operation with France and the United Kingdom, he said, adding that the US will continue to sustain the strikes until Syria stops using chemical weapons.

“To Iran and to Russia, I ask, what kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children,” Trump said in a televised address from the White House. Further, referring to Assad, he said, “These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.”

After the airstrikes, the Syrian Presidency tweeted: “Good souls will not be humiliated”, AP reported.

‘A red line has been crossed’: French President

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the decision to launch missiles on Syria was taken as there was no other “alternative path”. “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,” May said in a statement, according to The Guardian. “I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britain’s national interest. 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.

French President Emmanuel Macron said his country launched a military operation against Syrian government’s “clandestine chemical arsenal”. He said a “red line has been crossed” after the chemical attack and that there is no doubt that the Syrian government is responsible.

Trump’s announcement came hours after the White House announced that the US had proof that the Syrian regime had carried out a chemical weapon attack. “We can say that the Syrian government was behind this attack,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. “We know there are only certain countries, like Syria, that have delivery mechanisms and have those types of weapons.”

‘Cold war is back with a vengeance’

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday warned about the dangers of escalation over Syria and said that the Cold War is “back with a vengeance”, BBC reported. He urged the countries to act responsibly in such dangerous circumstances.

“The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present,” Guterres said at the opening of a bad-tempered UN Security Council meeting.

Rescue workers have said that at least 70 people were killed in the chemical attack, but the toll will rise as they get access to the basements where civilians sought refuge from the attack. They added that many of the injured showed symptoms indicating that they were exposed to a compound containing nerve gas.

Both Syria and Russia, its biggest supporter, have denied involvement in the attack, instead claiming that rebel groups had fabricated it to thwart the advances of Syrian troops and provoke global military intervention.