The U.S. military launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago.
The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. 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.
A statement by Syria’s military said the U.S. “aggression” had killed at least six people and indirectly aided militant factions such as the Islamic State by weakening Syrian forces. Separately, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that at least nine civilians, including four children, were killed near the air base. Neither report could be independently verified.
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