PARIS, April 7 (Xinhua) -- French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bore "full responsibility" for the U.S. military action.
The U.S. military on Thursday launched a targeted missile strike at a Syrian military airfield in its first direct assault on al-Assad's army since the Syria crisis began six years ago.
A total of 59 Tomahawk Land Attack missiles were launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EDT (0140 GMT Friday). Syrian aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, fuel points, air defense systems, and radars were targeted, according to a Pentagon statement.
The two European leaders said in a phone conversation that Paris and Berlin had been informed of the U.S. strikes on Syrian military positions in response to Damascus' suspected use of toxic gas in a rebel-held town in the country's northwestern province of Idlib.
"Al-Assad bears full responsibility for this development. His continued use of chemical weapons and mass crimes can not remain unpunished," they said in a joint statement released by the French presidency.
"France and Germany will pursue their efforts with their partners within the framework of the United Nations to punish with the most appropriate way the criminal acts related to the use of chemical weapons," they added.
A report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Right said 86 people were killed, among them 30 kids, on Tuesday in a toxic gas attack by Syrian warplanes in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib.
Damascus has repeatedly denied possession of any chemical weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the U.S. missile strike was an "aggression against a sovereign state" under a far-fetched pretext in violation of international law and an attempt to divert the international community's attention from civilian casualties in Iraq.
He said the strikes could aggravate tensions between the United States and Russia, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.