07/04/2017 09:23 BST | Updated 07/04/2017 16:59 BST

US Syria Strikes 'Entirely Appropriate' Response To Chemical Attack, Says Michael Fallon

Theresa May was given advance notice.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said the the British government supports the US cruise missile strike on the Syrian air base from where a chemical attack on civilians was launched.

President Donald Trump ordered the attack on Thursday and it was carried out in the early hours of Friday. It is the first direct US attack on the Syrian government.

Speaking this morning, Fallon said the strike was “entirely appropriate” response to the use of a nerve agent by Syrian President Assad’s regime, which killed at least 72 people.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

The UK did not take part in the strike, but Fallon said Theresa May was given advance notice of the surprise attack.

“Something had to be done about it and we fully support the American action,” Fallon told ITV. “This was a limited and appropriate response to what was an appalling massacre through the use of gas by President Assad we believe, of his own people.

“It’s designed to deter the Syrian regime from any future chemical weapons attacks. That’s why we think it was thoroughly justified and we fully support it.”

Jeremy Corbyn said the strike “risks escalating the war in Syria still further”

However Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, said he supported Trump’s action.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said the US strike was “a proportionate response to the barbarous attack by the Syrian government on its own people”.

Speaking from Florida, Trump said he had acted in the “vital national security interest” as the US must “prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons”.

“Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”

He added:  “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons.”

Russia, an ally of the Syrian regime, said the US action was  “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.

And the Kremlin said it was suspending a deal with the US to prevent mid-air incidents over Syria in response to the US missile strike.

The US gave the Russians advance warning about the strike on the Syrian base.

Handout . / Reuters

The Tomahawk missiles, launched from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, targeted airstrips, hangars, control towers and ammunition areas in Sharyat, central Syria, according to officials.

At least 72 people, including 20 children, were killed by a suspected mixture of chlorine and a nerve agent in an attack in the largely opposition-held Idlib province on Tuesday.

Britain had been leading renewed calls for diplomatic action in response to the earlier chemical attack.

The US, UK and France had brought a resolution before the United Nations Security Council, demanding an investigation.

Earlier on Wednesday, Downing Street had played down the prospect of military action, insisting “nobody is talking” about an armed response to the atrocity.

Syrian state TV went on to report missile attacks on a number of military targets, calling them an act of “aggression”.