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U.S. attacks Syria

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The U.S. launched cruise missiles against a Syrian regime target in retaliation for a chemical attack, reported USA Today.
In a televised statement, Mr. Trump said he authorized the airstrikes because “it is in the vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the use of deadly chemical weapons.”

After changing his position on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad staying in power earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefed President Trump on military options in Syria. In an impromptu press conference, Tillerson said of Assad, “It will seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.” When asked about a possibility of removing Assad, Tillerson replied “Those steps are underway.”

Tillerson told reporters that Mr. Trump made the decision Thursday to launch the airstrikes.
“This clearly indicates the President is willing to take decisive action,” Tillerson said.

National Security Adviser HR McMaster said “the possibility of these weapons falling into other hands is a direct threat.”
“The possibility of these weapons falling into other hands is a direct threat,” McMaster said.
Tillerson stressed there was no discussion with Moscow ahead of the airstrikes.

The Shayrat Airfield was targeted because it is where the chemical weapons that were used in the attack in the Idlib province, CBS News’ David Martin reports. This type of attack was chosen because it “carried least risk for Americans,” Martin reports.
According to Martin, the strike is a “direct response to the chemical weapon attack.”

While it’s unclear if more chemical weapons were stored in Shayrat, Martin noted that the U.S. developed weapons during the Bush administration that were intended to strike chemical weapons facilities and used at high heats to vaporize the gas. It’s unclear if those types of weapons were used, but McMaster said “there were measures in place to avoid” hitting any possible chemical weapons.

Tillerson said Russia is either complicit or “simply incompetent” for not adhering to a 2013 commitment to secure Syria’s chemical weapons, the Associated Press reports.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called the airstrikes “appropriate and just.” At the end of the statement, Ryan said he looks “forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort.”

Two dozen members of Congress were notified by White House and Cabinet officials of the airstrike, a White House official tells CBS News. The White House will be providing a list of these members shortly that includes people on both sides of the aisle.

In a statement, the Pentagon said a total of 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles targeted aircraft, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems and radars. The Pentagon stressed that “extraordinary measures” were taken to avoid civilian causalities.

Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike, the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon confirmed that the strike targeted Shayrat Airfield in Homs.

Syrian opposition leader Riyad Hijab tells CBS News that he believed Assad carried out the chemical attack to test Mr. Trump.
“Everybody is waiting for what Mr. Trump is going to do,” Hijab said.
Hijab, who was in Washington, said Mr. Trump would have been blamed for the war in Syrian if he followed the same course of action as former President Obama. “To be silent regarding a crime is similar to committing a crime itself,” Hijab said.

Syrian state TV called the airstrikes an “act of aggression,” the Associated Press reports, and “leads to losses.”

***

The US has launched 50 to 60 Tomahawk missiles against the Syrian military base near Homs after President Donald Trump ordered the strikes in response for the chemical attack in Idlib, blaming the incident on President Bashar Assad, reported Russia Today.
US ships stationed in the Mediterranean Sea reportedly launched the strike on Syria’s Shayrat airbase on Thursday night local time.

US President Donald Trump spoke from his Mar-a-Lago resort following the airstrikes, accusing Assad of using nerve gas that killed civilians in Idlib.
Calling it a “targeted military strike,” Trump said the Homs airfield was where the chemical gas attack earlier this week originated from.

Trump described the attack as defending a "vital national security interest" and called upon "civilized nations" to help end the "slaughter and bloodshed in Syria."

"There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention, and ignored the urging of the UN security council," Trump said. "Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically."

Fifty-nine US Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were launched from the US warships USS Porter and USS Ross from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement. Davis added that "extraordinary measures" were taken "to avoid civilian casualties," and that "every precaution was taken" to minimize the "risk to personnel at the airfield."

The governor of Homs province said American strike at the Syrian army installation was helping terrorist forces.
“Syrian leadership and Syrian policy will not change,” Talal Barazi said in a phone interview with state television, as cited by Reuters. “This targeting was not the first and I don't believe it will be the last.”

Syria’s state SANA news agency cited a military source on the ground as confirming the strike and claiming that it resulted in casualties.
NBC News reported that there was no word on casualties and that no people were allegedly targeted. Russian forces were reportedly warned ahead of time.

The airfield was allegedly targeted after the US blamed the Syrian military for the chemical incident in Idlib, in which dozens of civilians died from suspected gas poisoning in the rebel-occupied territory. Up to 86 people, including 26 children, are alleged to have been killed. Several Western states have immediately pinned the blame on Assad’s forces, while Russia said Syrian jets bombed a warehouse where chemical weapons were being produced.

The UAE-based CEO of AlMasdar News, Leith Abou Fadel, reported on Twitter that the strike has resulted in no casualties among the Syrian or Russian military, adding that the missiles targeted the same area on the airfield.

***

Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem reaffirmed on Thursday that the Syrian Arab Army didn’t and will not use any kind of chemical weapons even against the terrorists who target the Syrian people, reported Syrian Arab News Agency.

In a press conference in Damascus, al-Moallem pointed out that the lie that the Syrian army used this weapon came from countries known for always conspiring against Syria after terrorists have failed in their attacks and those countries have failed in their attempts to disrupt the political process.

“All of u learned about the statement of the Command of the Army and the Armed Forces and the statement of the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry that was sent to the UN Security Council and that sent to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the statement of Deputy Permanent Representative in New York, and all of these statements stressed that our forces could have not used chemical weapons neither in the past nor in the present and neither could they use them in the future in any place, and we condemn such a criminal act,” al-Moallem said.

Al-Moallem reminded the press conference that Syria had already joined the OPCW and submitted successive statements on this subject and in mid-2016, the Organization confirmed the accuracy of the Syrian data provided.

He however questioned the timing of this “unfair campaign” against Syria, linking it to the fact that the past few weeks have witnessed active movement toward national reconciliations, terrorist attacks in Jobar and the northern countryside of Hama to which the Syrian Army responded and succeeded to restore all points and the absence of terrorists from the latest Astana meeting upon Turkey’s request with the aim to disrupt the results at Astana.

He also referred to the fact at the fifth round of Geneva, the “Riyadh delegation” had only one demand there, which is to take over power.

“When all these attempts failed, they came up with the lie of the army’s using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun,” said al-Moallem.

The Foreign Minister explained that the campaign of accusing the Syrian army of using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun started at 06:00 am, while the first air raid carried out by the Syrian army was at 11:30 am of the same day targeting an ammunition store of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists that included chemical weapons.

He went on clarifying that the evidence that the target was an ammunition depot is that the area where the video footage was filmed through the “White Helmets” and the London-based “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” was all around a small circle, stressing that if there were an airstrike that used chemical weapons, it would have spread over a diameter of over 1 km.”

He stressed that the ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups have continued to store chemical weapons in the cities and in inhabited areas, pointing out that Syria has sent more than 100 cables to the UNSC and the OPCW that included information on the entry of chemical materials from Iraq to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra and from the Turkish border towards Idleb.

“I reiterate that the Syrian Arab Army has never used and will never use this type of weapons, not only not against our people and our children, but even not against the terrorists who are killing our people and our children and attacking civilians in the cities with their random shells,” al-Moallem added.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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