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U.S. and Two Allies Launch Missile Attack on Syria

Missiles streak across the Damascus skyline as the United States launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital, early Saturday. (Hassan Ammar / AP)

WASHINGTON—The Latest on U.S.-led missile strikes on Syria (all times local):

1:10 a.m.

Hundreds of Syrians are demonstrating in a landmark square of the Syrian capital, waving victory signs and honking their car horns in a show of defiance.

The demonstrations broke out early Saturday following a wave of U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians. The Syrian government has denied the accusations.

In Damascus, the president’s seat of power, hundreds of residents gathered in Omayyad Square, many waving Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags. Some clapped their hands and danced, others drove in convoys, honking their horns.

“We are your men, Bashar,” they shouted.

State TV broadcast live from the square where a large crowd of civilians mixed with men in uniforms, including an actor, lawmakers and other figures.

“Good morning steadfastness,” one broadcaster said.

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1:05 a.m.

The British Defense Ministry says four of its Tornado GR4 warplanes fired missiles at a military facility as part of the tripartite attack on Syria.

The ministry says the missiles were fired around 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Homs, where it was assessed the Syrian regime keeps agents used to make chemical weapons.

The ministry said in a statement Saturday that the warplanes struck the former missile base with Storm Shadow missiles after “very careful analysis” to maximize the destruction of stockpiled chemicals and to minimize any risk of contamination to the surrounding area.

It said the facility is located “some distance from any known concentration” of civilian residential areas.

The ministry said a detailed analysis of how effective the strike was is continuing, but initial indications show a successful attack.

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1 a.m.

Russia’s Defense Ministry says none of the missiles launched in a Western attack on Syria entered the zones guarded by Russia’s missile defense.

Russia has two military facilities in Syria — an air base at Hemeimeem and a naval base at Tartus.

“Not one of the cruise missiles launched by the United States and its partners entered the zone of responsibility for Russian air-defense divisions,” a ministry statement said Saturday.

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12:20 a.m.

Syrian state-run TV says three civilians have been wounded in the U.S.-led missile attack on a military base in Homs.

It says the attack was aborted by derailing the incoming missile but adds nonetheless that three people were wounded.

It says another attack with “a number of missiles” targeting a scientific research center destroyed a building and caused other material damage but no human losses. The network says the building in the research center included an educational center and labs.

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12:05 a.m.

A senior Syrian opposition leader says the international community will have to bear the responsibility for “any revengeful escalation” from the Syrian government or its allies following joint airstrikes from the U.S., Britain and France.

Nasr al-Hariri, who heads the committee that represents the opposition in the flailing U.N. talks with the government, says Syrians need an international understanding and a strategy that leads to a political solution to “save it from the brutality of the Syrian regime.”

Al-Hariri tweeted that after the strikes in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack last week, the Syrian government may not “risk using chemical weapons in Syria again.” But he added, “It will only use explosive barrels, cluster bombs.”

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11:55 p.m.

The spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry is denouncing the United States for launching airstrikes on Syria. She says the attacks hit a long-troubled country “that for many years has been trying to survive terrorist aggression.”

In a statement Saturday on Facebook, Maria Zakharova is also taking Western media reports to task.

Zakharova says: “The White House stated that its assuredness of the chemical attack from Damascus was based on ‘mass media, reports of symptoms, video, photos as well as credible information.’ After this statement the American and other Western mass media should understand their responsibility in what is happening.”

Sakharova is comparing the situation to the start of the Iraq War in 2003 based on claims Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.

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11:30 p.m.

The Russian ambassador to the United States has condemned the airstrikes on Syria, which he says pose a threat to Russia.

Anatoly Antonov says in a statement that Russia has warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences” and “all responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.”

He adds that “insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.”

The U.S., Britain and France launched the military strikes to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for an apparent chemical attack against civilians.

Russia’s military, which supports Assad, has described the purported chemical attack as a fake directed by Britain.

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11:20 p.m.

The head of a delegation of Russian lawmakers visiting Syria claims that Western airstrikes on Syria were aimed at disrupting the work of international investigators looking into whether Syria used chemical weapons in the town of Douma.

The alleged chemical attack prompted the airstrikes. Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were expected to begin work Saturday on determining whether a chemical attack occurred.

Russian parliament member Dmitry Sablin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying, “The airstrikes were carried out by the U.S.-led coalition consciously to spoil the investigation.”

The Russian military said Friday its specialists in Douma have found no evidence of a chemical attack.

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11 p.m.

Congressional leaders are supporting President Donald Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad in retaliation for an apparent chemical attack against civilians — although there are some reservations.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is praising Trump’s “decisive action in coordination with our allies,” adding, “We are united in our resolve.”

Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain is applauding the airstrikes but says “they alone will not achieve U.S. objectives in the Middle East.”

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is calling the airstrikes “appropriate,” but says “the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria.”

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says, “One night of airstrikes is not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy.”

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10:50 p.m.

Syrian TV is reporting that the attack on Syria targeted a scientific research center in Barzeh, near Damascus.

The report says Syria’s air defenses confronted the missiles near Homs, and says the airstrikes also targeted an army depot there.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the airstrikes in retaliation for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Syrian air defenses responded to the joint strikes by the United States, France and Britain

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10:35 p.m.

A highly placed Russian politician is likening President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler after the launch of airstrikes against Syria, and says he regards the action as a move against Russia.

Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee, says Trump “can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time — because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union.”

That’s according to state news agency RIA-Novosti. The Nazi forces’ opening attack against the USSR in 1941 was launched around 4 a.m.

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10:20 p.m.

The British defense ministry says “initial indications” show that the airstrikes against Syria produced a “successful attack” on a Syrian military facility.

The U.K., U.S. and France launched the attacks near Damascus early Saturday. The U.K. ministry says in a statement that while the effectiveness of the strike is still being analyzed, “initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May is describing the attack as neither “about intervening in a civil war” nor “about regime change,” but a limited and targeted strike that “does not further escalate tensions in the region” and does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

May says, “We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.”

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10:17 p.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he is “absolutely confident” that Syrian President Bashar Assad is behind the alleged chemical attack on his people that the U.S. and allies retaliated against Friday night.

Mattis tells reporters he is certain Assad conducted a chemical attack on innocent people.

He says the U.S. is “very much aware of one of the chemical agents used.” And he says there may have been a second.

President Donald Trump announced Friday that the U.S., France and Britain had launched military strikes against Syria to punish Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons and to deter him from doing it again.

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10:15 p.m.

Defense Secretary James Mattis says the U.S. has no reports of suffering any losses during the initial airstrikes on Syria Friday.

Mattis says “right now this is a one-time shot” but is not ruling out further attacks. President Donald Trump had said earlier that the campaign against the regime of Bashar Assad could be “sustained.”

The defense secretary says the airstrikes were launched against several sites that he says helped provide Assad’s ability to create chemical weapons. Mattis says the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people last week.

Mattis says the Pentagon will provide more information on the attack Saturday.

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10:10 p.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says military strikes in Syria are “directed at the Syrian regime” and they have “gone to great lengths to avoid civilians and foreign casualties.”

Mattis spoke Friday night after President Donald Trump announced that the U.S., France and Britain launched military strikes on Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians and to deter him from doing it again.

Mattis is asking that “responsible nations” join in condemning the Assad regime.

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10 p.m.

Defense Secretary James Mattis says the U.S. and its allies have taken “decisive action” against Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure.

Mattis briefed reporters at the Pentagon Friday an hour after President Donald Trump announced the strike.

Mattis says the United States, along with France and the United Kingdom, struck because Syrian President Bashar Assad “did not get the message” when the U.S. launched airstrikes after a chemical attack in 2017.

The defense secretary says Friday’s strikes have “sent a clear message” to Assad and his “murderous lieutenants.”

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9:50 p.m.

Explosions are being heard to the east, west and south of Damascus as the U.S., U.K. and France conduct airstrikes in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government on its own people.

Witnesses saw blasts surrounding much of the Syrian capital and a huge fire could be seen from a distance to the east. An AP reporter in Damascus says the attacks turned the sky orange. Syrian television reported that a scientific research center had been hit.

Syrian media reported that Syrian defenses hit 13 rockets south of Damascus. After the attack ceased and the early morning skies went dark once more, vehicles with loudspeakers roamed the streets of Damascus blaring nationalist songs.

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9:40 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says his nation, the United States and Britain have launched a military operation against the Syrian government’s “clandestine chemical arsenal.”

Macron says in a statement Saturday that France’s “red line has been crossed” after a suspected chemical attack last week in the Syrian town of Douma.

He says there is “no doubt” that the Syrian government is responsible. President Bashar Assad’s government denies responsibility.

Macron says the operation is limited to Syria’s abilities to produce chemical weapons. He is not giving details about what equipment is involved in the operation or what sites it is targeting.

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9:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is reiterating his call to have other nations take on more of the burden in Syria.

Trump says he has asked U.S. partners “to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-ISIS effort.”

He says increased engagement from countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt can ensure that Iran does not profit from the defeat of the Islamic State group.

He adds that, “America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria — under no circumstances” and says that, “As other nations step up our contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home.”

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9:20 p.m.

Syria’s capital has been rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Associated Press reporters in Damascus saw smoke rising from east Damascus early Saturday morning local time. Syrian state TV says the attack has begun on the capital, though it wasn’t immediately clear what was targeted.

Trump announced Friday night that the U.S., France and Britain have launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians and to deter him from doing it again.

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9:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is warning Russia and Iran about their association with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad’s government, as he announces the launch of retaliatory strikes after an apparent chemical weapons attack last week.

Speaking from the White House, Trump says, “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 calls the two countries those “most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime.”

Trump says, “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.”

He adds ominously, “Hopefully someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran, but maybe not.”

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9:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is asking for a “prayer for our noble warriors” as he concludes his remarks announcing strikes on targets associated with the Syrian chemical weapons program.

Trump announced the strikes, in coordination with France and Britain, from the White House Friday night. He said the three nations have “marshaled their righteous power.”

Trump is also offering prayers for the Middle East and for the United States.

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9:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he is “prepared to sustain” strikes against Syria until the use of chemical agents stops.

The United States, along with assurance from France and the United Kingdom, launched a response Friday against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad days after his government allegedly used chemical weapons on its citizens.

But Trump says America does not seek “an indefinite presence” in Syria and will look to pull out its troops once the Islamic State is totally defeated.

Trump has signaled in recent weeks that, despite advice from his national security team, he wanted to accelerate the timetable of the withdrawal of American forces.

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9 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the United States has “launched precision strikes” on targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons program.

Trump spoke from the White House Friday night. He says a “combined operation” with France and the United Kingdom is underway.

Trump says that last Saturday, Syrian President Bashar Assad deployed chemical weapons in what was a “significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.”

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8:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump is set to address the nation Friday night amid anticipation of a retaliatory strike for an apparent Syrian chemical weapon attack last week.

That’s according to a source familiar with the president’s plans, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Trump has said he will hold the Syrian government, as well as its Russian and Iranian allies, accountable for the suspected attack.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said Friday afternoon that Trump “is going to hold the Syrian government accountable. He’s also going to hold the Russians and the Iranians who are propping up this regime responsible.”

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5 p.m.

The U.S. Navy was moving an additional Tomahawk missile-armed ship within striking range of Syria as President Donald Trump and his national security aides mulled the scope and timing of an expected military assault in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack.

Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, said the president had not yet made a final decision, two days after he tweeted that Russia should “get ready” because a missile attack “will be coming” at Moscow’s chief Middle East ally.

The presence of Russian troops and air defenses in Syria were among numerous complications weighing on Trump, who must also consider the dangers to roughly 2,000 American troops in the country if Russia were to retaliate for U.S. strikes.

The Associated Press

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