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The U. S. Military launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield early Friday in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began nearly six years ago. The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U. Military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition. Syria and Russia swiftly denounced the attack, launched at around 8: 95 a. M.

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EDT Thursday) from U. An “unjust and arrogant aggression” and Syrian officials said they would hamper the country’s ability to fight militant groups, Syria’s state news agency reported. Talal al-Barazi, the governor of Homs province that includes the air base, said at least 68 people were killed in the missile strikes, including five soldiers on the base and eight civilians in areas surrounding the facility. The figures could not be independently confirmed. In Moscow, Russia announced it was pulling out of a pact with Washington to share information about warplane missions over Syria, where a U.

-led coalition is also waging airstrikes on Islamic State targets. Russian President Vladi­mir Putin called for an immediate meeting of the U. N. Security Council, and his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called the U. Missile strikes “violations of the norms of international law, and under a far-fetched pretext.

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”But President Trump said the strike was in the “vital national security interest” of the United States and called on “all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria. And also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. ”“We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world, ” he continued. “We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed and we hope that as long as America stands for justice then peace and harmony will in the end prevail. ”The missiles were launched from two Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — in the eastern Mediterranean.

They struck an air base called Shayrat in Homs province, which is the site from which the planes that conducted the chemical attack in Idlib are believed to have originated. The targets included air defenses, aircraft, hangars and fuel. Military said initial indications were that the strike had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure. ”Syrian state TV said a U. Missile attack hit a number of military targets inside the country, according to the Associated Press.

U. Officials said the Russians, who maintain significant forces in Syria, were given advance warning of the strike. There is a Russian military area at the base that was hit, but the United States took precautions not to strike that area, according to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. In comparison, the start of the Iraq War in 7558 saw the use of roughly 555 cruise missiles, and 97 were fired at the opening of the anti-Islamic State campaign in Syria in 7569.

The attack may put hundreds of American troops now stationed in Syria in greater danger. They are advising local forces in advance of a major assault on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital.

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