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Tensions rise after U.S. missile strike on Syrian airbase

The Syrian military said the strike late Thursday evening killed at least nine people, though the U.S. says it targeted an airbase, not civilians.
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President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on an airbase in Syria, in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians.

The 59 Tomahawk missiles, launched from two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea late Thursday, hit the Shayrat Airfield in the Homs province of western Syria. This is the airfield from which the U.S. believes Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad launched a chemical weapon attack earlier this week, the Guardian reports.

At least 70 Syrians – including many children – died in the town of Khan Sheikhoun after the attack. Turkey has said the victims were exposed to Sarin gas, the New York Times reports, the use of which is banned under the Geneva Convention.

The Syrian military said the strike late Thursday evening killed nine civilians – including four children – and wounded several others, according to The Associated Press, though the U.S. has said the strike targeted the airbase, not civilians.

A change for President Trump

The attack on Thursday was an about-face for President Trump, who repeatedly cautioned former President Barack Obama against attacking the Assad regime without congressional approval, after another chemical agent attack in 2013.

According to CNBC, Trump's change of heart came after seeing horrific images showing the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack on "innocent civilians."

"Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many," he told the media. "Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror."

Russia's response

In response to the U.S. strike, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin called it "an aggression against a sovereign government" and one likely to cause "significant damage to Russian-American relations," the Washington Post reports. The Assad regime described the strikes as "foolish and irresponsible."

Russia said it will bolster Syria's air defenses in the wake of the attack, and has suspended a 2015 agreement with the U.S. that saw the two countries share information about their air maneuvers over Syria to avoid possible collisions, NBC reports.

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