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Pentagon: Airstrikes launched to ‘cripple Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons in the future’

ARLINGTON, Va. — Pentagon officials held a press conference Saturday morning to discuss operations in Syria after the United States and allies launched military strikes in Syria.

The Pentagon says none of the missiles filed by the U.S. and its allies was deflected by Syrian air defenses, rebutting claims by the Russian and Syrian governments.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, says: “None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses.” He says there also is no indication that Russian air defense systems were employed early Saturday in Syria.

The Russian military had previously said Syria’s Soviet-made air defense systems downed 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched by the United States and its allies.

McKenzie says 105 weapons were launched against three targets in Syria.

Characterizing the strike as a success, McKenzie says, “As of right now we’re not aware of any civilian casualties.”

The airstrikes were launched to punish President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians and to deter him from doing it again, President Donald Trump said Friday.

President Trump tweeted Saturday morning, discussing a “perfectly executed strike,” thanking France and the U.K. for their wisdom and power of the military.

The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump’s second order to attack Syria. He authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad’s use of sarin gas against civilians.

Friday’s strikes appear to signal Trump’s willingness to draw the United States more deeply into the Syrian conflict. Just weeks ago, Trump said he wanted to end U.S. involvement in Syria and bring American troops home to focus on the homeland. The participation of British and French forces enables Trump to assert a wider international commitment against the use of chemical weapons, but the multi-pronged attack carries the risk of Russian retaliation.

In his nationwide address, Trump stressed that he has no interest in a longtime fight with Syria.

“As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home,” Trump said. “And great warriors they are.”

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