US fires 'one time shot' at Syria after chlorine attack

WASHINGTON, April 13 (Reuters) - The United States and its allies waged more than 100 strikes on Syria on Friday in a "one time shot" that the Pentagon said followed conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack using at least chlorine gas.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine General Joseph Dunford said three main chemical weapons facilities were targeted by both missiles from the sea and fired from aircraft, which triggered Syrian air defenses.

Pentagon holds briefing on Syria strikes 

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Pentagon holds briefing on Syria strikes
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Pentagon holds briefing on Syria strikes
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 13: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on April 13, 2018. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 13: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on April 13, 2018. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 13: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on April 13, 2018. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 13: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (2nd R) briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on April 13, 2018. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - APRIL 13: U.S. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (3rd L) shakes hands with French Defence Attache Brigadier General Jean-Pierre Montegu (2nd L) as U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (R) and British Embassy Defence Attache Air Vice Marshall Gavin Parker (L) look on after a news briefing on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 13: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford (R) briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on April 13, 2018. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - APRIL 13: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon in Washington, United States on April 13, 2018. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - APRIL 13: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (R) arrive at a news briefing on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - APRIL 13: U.S. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (L) brief members of the media on Syria as British Embassy Defence Attache Air Vice Marshall Gavin Parker (2nd R) and French Defence Attache Brigadier General Jean-Pierre Montegu (3rd L) listen at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - APRIL 13: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - APRIL 13: U.S. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (R) brief members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - APRIL 13: U.S. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (R) brief members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - APRIL 13: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefs members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - APRIL 13: U.S. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (R) brief members of the media on Syria at the Pentagon April 13, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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The Pentagon could not confirm how many missiles hit their targets.

Mattis and Dunford acknowledged the strike was designed to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capability without killing civilians or the many foreign fighters in Syria's multi-sided civil war, particularly those from Russia.

"We specifically identified these targets to mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved," Dunford told reporters, adding the U.S. military advised Russia of airspace that would be used in the strike but did not "pre-notify them."

Mattis acknowledged that the United States waged the attacks only with conclusive evidence that chlorine gas was used in the April 7 attack in Syria.

Allegations of Assad's chlorine use are frequent in Syria's conflict, raising questions about whether Washington had lowered the threshold for military action in Syria by now deciding to strike after a chlorine gas attack.

Last year, the United States only waged strikes on Syria after determining that more deadly sarin gas was used and some U.S. media had reported that Washington was confident Assad had also used sarin on April 7.

Mattis, however, suggested the evidence of sarin was so far inconclusive.

"We are very confident that chlorine was used. We are not ruling out sarin right now," Mattis 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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The Pentagon said one of the targets was a scientific research center located in the greater Damascus area, which it described as a Syrian center for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weaponry.

The second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs.

"We assess that this was the primary location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment," Dunford said.

The third target, which was also near Homs, contained both a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and a command post. 

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