Australia 'fully supports' air strikes against Syria but was not involved

US President Donald Trump arrives to announce military strikes on Syria during a statement at the White House in Washington US Apr 13 2018. Reuters

Unlike the unilateral USA strike in Syria past year, in which only one site was attacked, the operation was aimed at the "long-term degradation of Syria's ability to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons".

"Again, we are being threatened. They are crimes of a monster instead".

A senior official in a regional alliance that backs Damascus told Reuters that said the Syrian government and its allies had "absorbed" the attack, and that targeted sites were evacuated days ago thanks to a warning from Russian Federation.

Smoke was seen rising from east Damascus and the lit-up sky turning orange for the blasts while a huge fire could be seen from a distance to the east.

After the strikes, Moscow's ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said: "We warned that such actions would not be left without consequences". He said another attack with "a number of missiles" targeting a scientific research center in Barzeh, near Damascus, destroyed a building and caused other material damage but no human losses. Those bases come under the protection of Russian air defense units.

US President Donald Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what they say was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.

Ms Payne said the targeted strikes on three sites - a research centre near Damascus, a weapons storage facility west of Homs and a nearby command post - had reduced the regime's chemical weapons capability while minimising the risk to civilians.

"This wave of strikes is over", Dunford emphasized. From a distance, US missiles hitting suburbs of the capital sounded like thunder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she supported the military action.

"America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances", he said.

"This action was proportionate and targeted, it was not aimed at (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad's allies nor at the civilian population", Le Drian said in a televised statement.

The Syria strikes send a "clear message to anyone else who thinks they can use chemical weapons with impunity", May said.

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Trump made clear that he is wary of a deeper entanglement in Syria, where about 2,000 USA troops have been deployed to fight Islamic State.

The air strikes, however, risk dragging the United States further into Syria's civil war, particularly if Russia, Iran and Assad opt to retaliate.

While insisting that the military action was a direct outcome of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, May also alluded to the use of a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury.

Trump, speaking from the White House late Friday, said the attack last weekend was "a significant escalation" of Assad's use of chemical weapons and warranted a stepped-up global response.

British Prime Minister Theresa May described 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.

We can not allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised - within Syria, on the streets of the United Kingdom, or anywhere else in our world.

Russian state news agency TASS reported that none of the missiles fired by the three western nations struck areas near its naval and air bases in Syria.

Britain and France have joined the United States in the military operation, Trump said.

The operation comes after almost a week of debate in which Pentagon leaders voiced concerns that an attack could pull the United States into Syria's civil war and trigger a risky conflict with Assad ally Russian Federation - without necessarily halting chemical attacks.

The action followed a week of threats of retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma, outside Damascus, where Syrian forces have always been battling rebels.

"If it is finished, and there is no second round, it will be considered limited", the official told Reuters.

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