Israel, moderate Sunni Arab countries, and Arab private citizens—including Syrians—praised the American strikes on a Syrian airbase launched early Friday, while Iran fiercely condemned them, The Wall Street Journal reported. The U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base outside of Homs in response to a chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime against civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun earlier this week.
“Tehran considers using this excuse to take unilateral measures dangerous, destructive and a violation of international laws,” an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
A Saudi foreign ministry official stated, “The Syrian regime brought this military operation upon itself. The brave decision taken by the U.S. president in response to these crimes should be hailed when the international community has been unable to put a stop to such actions by the Syrian regime.”
Many Arab private citizens took to social media to thank President Trump – who some called “Abu Ivanka” – for the attack against a murderous regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. “Fifteen warplanes that would have killed thousands of Syrians” were taken out in the attack, one Facebook user said. “We love you.” A Syrian who lives in London wrote, “For the first time in six years, the Assad regime has been held accountable for its crimes.” Another Facebook user, from Houston, posted an image of Trump, the American flag, and a map of the United States, and the message “We love you” in both English and Arabic. Jake Tapper of CNN tweeted, “Syrian activist texts me: ‘Finally thank God!!!!’”
Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum welcomed the strikes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.” Noting that the U.S. had briefed Israel before the attack was carried out, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said, “The American update to the IDF and security establishment before the attack in Syria is further proof of the strength of the relationship and depth of the connection between Israel and its largest ally, the United States.” Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Zionist Union and the leader of the opposition in the Knesset, tweeted that the American strikes came “at the right time and in the right place” and were “an important message to the butcher from Damascus.” Former Israeli national security advisor Yaakov Amidror, speaking on a conference call held by The Israel Project, said, “[The Americans] are telling their allies in the Middle East: you are not alone.”
A base for the IRGC and Hezbollah--
The United States launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield Thursday night in response to a recent chemical attack in Idlib province that killed at least 70 people, including many children, U.S. officials told NBC News. Two American warships fired the missiles at the Shayrat air base near Homs in western Syria, which the U.S. believes was used to launch Tuesday’s lethal chemical weapons attack against the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. U.S. officials said the strikes did not target people, instead hitting aircraft and critical infrastructure at the base.
“The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act,” Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement. “U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.”
The choice of target “suggests that the Trump administration is seeking to punish the perpetrators and deter future gas attacks while minimizing the chances of a larger military confrontation with Assad’s forces or Russia,” Politico reported. The airfield was “long a base for the IRGC and Hezbollah. Iranian officers were reported at the airport as recently as last month,” tweeted Syria expert Tony Badran.
The decision to go ahead with a strike came just a day after Trump declared that the attack on Khan Sheikhoun had had “crossed many, many lines” and that his view of the Assad regime had “changed very much” as a result.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed their support for the airstrike, although several also cautioned that the administration should consult with Congress before launching any further attacks.
“Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added, “This week’s unspeakable chemical weapons attack is only the latest in a long series of horrors perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad on innocent men, women and children. Tonight’s strike in Syria appears to be a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated, “These military strikes against Assad’s arsenal send a clear signal that the United States will stand up for internationally accepted norms and rules against the use of chemical weapons…Inside Syria, Russia and Iran are complicit in Assad’s war crimes and crimes against humanity by their direct military intervention in support of his regime.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement reading, “Earlier this week the Assad regime murdered dozens of innocent men, women, and children in a barbaric chemical weapons attack. Tonight the United States responded. This action was appropriate and just.”
Before the strike was launched, former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called for a forceful response to the atrocity, “I really believe that we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.”
Run like a girl--
Iranian women were not allowed to fully participate in Tehran’s first-ever marathon on Friday, the Agence France-Press reported. While men were allowed to run the complete length of the race, women could only run six miles, entirely within a closed arena with no spectators – they could not run through the city streets and continue the race.
“I registered but I quit. I took back my 500,000 rials ($15) because we were deceived,” said Nasim, a woman in her 30s. “When they separate us, it is like they are casting us aside. They are insulting us. Everywhere in the world, marathons are held on public streets – not in a closed space.”
The AFP noted, “Professional sporting events are strictly segregated in Iran. Women are not even allowed into sports stadiums to watch football.”
Just last week, Iran barred some members of its women’s pool team from participating in billiard sports competitions for one year for violating Islamic codes of conduct, although it was not explained what exactly the women had done.
Dorsa Derakhshani, an 18-year-old chess grandmaster, was kicked off Iran’s national team in February after she failed to wear the Islamic hair covering known as the hijab at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2017. Her 15-year-old brother, Borna, was also booted from the national team after playing against an Israeli opponent at the same competition.
Preaching to the choir--
One by one, Micah Hendler gives hello hugs to 30 teenagers from across the capital city as they arrive for choir practice at the International YMCA on King David Street. Jewish, Muslim and Christian, the girls and boys don’t appear to have much in common until Hendler starts the vocal warmup and a unified harmony fills the room. Established in 2012, the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus sings in English, Hebrew and Arabic, in Israel and abroad. The carefully chosen songs — hip-hop to chant, Middle Eastern to global pop — are weighted with words like “kulanu,” Hebrew for “all of us,” and phrases like “I love you and I need you to survive.” Every weekly rehearsal concludes with a professionally facilitated, simultaneously translated dialogue that doesn’t aim for perfect harmony but for greater understanding. “We go beyond simply singing together, delving deeper into one another’s identities, life experiences, communal narratives, religious traditions and national histories through dialogue, all within the safe space of the musical ensemble and the strong personal bonds and community it creates,” says Hendler. “I live in Israel, I’m an Arab, there’s Jewish people … that’s what I know,” said choir member Samia. “But I never talked to them, I never knew them, I never knew their opinion. After joining this choir it changed my life. It made me know what they think. It made them know what I think.” (via Israel21c)