Trump orders strikes against Syria over chemical weapons attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S., British and French forces hammered Syria with air strikes early Saturday Syria time in response to a poison gas attack that killed dozens of people last week, in the biggest intervention by Western powers in Syria's civil war.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the military action from the White House late on Friday. As he spoke, explosions rocked Damascus.

Trump said he was prepared to sustain the response until the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stopped its use of chemical weapons.

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Trump orders strikes against Syria over chemical weapons attack
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Trump orders strikes against Syria over chemical weapons attack
US President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
National Security Advisor John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump deprts after addressing the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives to address the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives to address the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump announces missile strikes on Syria while delivering a statement from the White House in Washington, U.S., April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
US President Donald Trump arrives to address the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives to address the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
National Security Advisor John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the situation in Syria April 13, 2018 at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump said strikes on Syria are under way. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The intervention was the biggest strike by Western powers against Assad in the country’s seven-year-old civil war and pitted the United States and its allies against Russia, which itself intervened in the war in 2015 to back Assad.

"A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad," Trump said in a televised address from the White House.

A U.S. official told Reuters the strikes were aimed at multiple targets and involved Tomahawk cruise missiles.

At least six loud explosions were heard in Damascus in the early hours of Saturday and smoke was seen rising over the Syrian capital, a Reuters witness said. A second witness said the Barzah district of Damascus had been hit in the strikes. Barzah is the location of a major Syrian scientific research center.

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April 2018 Syria attack leaves dozens dead
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April 2018 Syria attack leaves dozens dead
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian child receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian man receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian kid waits to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: Affected Syrian kids wait to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian man lies on a stretcher as he waits to get medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: Affected Syrian kids wait to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Fadi Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - APRIL 08: A man holds a photo of a victim baby as he and other demonstrators gather to protest against Assad regime forces' allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta, in Saraqib town of Idlib, Syria on April 08, 2018. (Photo by Mahmut Bekkur/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE (WHITE HELMETS) / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Affected Syrian kids receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Douma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by WHITE HELMETS / HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 08: An affected Syrian kid receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 08, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 08: An affected Syrian kid receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 08, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Speaking of Assad and his suspected role in last week's chemical weapons attack, Trump said, "These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead."

"The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons," Trump said.

The U.S. president had sharply critical words for both Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad's government.

"To Iran and to Russia, I ask, what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?" Trump said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had authorized British armed forces "to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian regime's chemical weapons capability." She described it as a "limited and targeted strike" aimed at minimizing civilian casualties.

The military action is not about intervening in Syria's civil war or changing its government, she said.

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Reaction to Trump ordering strikes against Syria
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Reaction to Trump ordering strikes against Syria

**Click through the following slides to see reaction to President Donald Trump's announcement that strikes were underway in Syria.**

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump is right to assert that the Assad regime’s evil acts cannot go unanswered, and the nations that ena… https://t.co/TdJYCTMZmk
Praying for our armed forces who are in harm’s way, and their families. Yes I am. This is a very serious moment we… https://t.co/rxrHykfmXH
While Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable for his unlawful use of chemical weapons against civilians, the stri… https://t.co/hwK0KJRCES
These offensive strikes against Syria are unconstitutional, illegal, and reckless. The next speaker of the House mu… https://t.co/JUAePSU7Y3
Congratulations to the Trump administration for adopting the same failed foreign policy and ignoring of the constit… https://t.co/2s2F8Vq9vc
I haven’t read France’s or Britain’s “Constitution,” but I’ve read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to strike Syria.
Sen Markey says tonight’s attack on Syria neither constitutional nor wise. https://t.co/9oGiPtLgVl
The use of chemical weapons on civilians, including children, is one of the most abhorrent acts imaginable, and the… https://t.co/dmvYyfUExz
The barbarism from the Assad regime will not be tolerated. America and its allies are together to deliver the conse… https://t.co/vwmXHVNiPR
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(Reporting by Steve Holland, Tim Ahmann, Eric Beech; Additional reporting by Samia Nakhoul and Tom Perry in Beirut; Writing by Yara Bayoumy and Warren Strobel; Editing by Clive McKeef)

 

 

 

 

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