Four children, five other civilians killed in U.S. air strike, Syria says

Four Civilians Killed by US Airstrikes in Syria's Deir Ezzor

Nine civilians including four children were killed in the U.S. missile attack on a Syrian airbase near the city of Homs on Friday, the Syrian state news agency said.

The SANA report said the civilians died in villages near the airbase.

It said seven more people had been wounded and homes in the area had been badly damaged.

Earlier, Homs governor, Talal Barazi, said seven people had been killed in the attack. It was not immediately clear if these were separate casualty tolls.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he had ordered missile strikes against the airfield from which a deadly chemical attack was allegedly launched, declaring he acted in America’s “national security interest” against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The strikes drew sharp criticism from Russia, Mr. al-Assad’s ally.

U.S. officials said the military fired dozens of cruise missiles against the base in response to the suspected gas attack in a rebel-held area this week, which Washington has blamed on Mr. al-Assad’s forces.

The Syrian government has strongly denied responsibility and says it does not use chemical weapons.

The governor of Homs province said earlier that the airbase was used to support Syrian army operations against Islamic State.

The UN Security Council was expected to hold closed-door consultations on Friday about the U.S. strike on Syria following a request by Bolivia, an elected member of the council, a senior Security Council diplomat said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Friday called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as soon as possible, saying “a transitional government must be established.’’

Mr. Cavusoglu also called for the establishment of an interim government in Syria, adding “Turkey was informed of the U.S missile attacks on the Syrian airbase ahead of time.”

“The U.S informed Turkey before it attacked a Syrian base at Friday dawn.

“U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass contacted our (Foreign Ministry) Under-secretary Umit Yalcin.

“Information on the attack was also diffused through the coalition members fighting against the Islamic State (IS),” Mr. Cavusoglu said on Friday in Antalya.

Mr. Cavusoglu said he had spoken with the French and German foreign ministers on phone without specifying when.

He said contacts had been initiated with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

He said that safe zones for civilians in Syria were now more important than ever.

Like Turkey, a British official said the UK was contacted before the attack.

U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis asked for Britain’s view on whether Bashar al-Assad’s regime was responsible for a chemical attack in Syria before Washington launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase, Britain’s defence minister said on Friday.

In a sharp escalation of the U.S. military role in Syria, two U.S. warships fired dozens of cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the airbase controlled by Assad’s forces in response to the poison gas attack in a rebel-held area on Tuesday.

“The American defence secretary consulted me early yesterday evening about our assessment of the regime’s culpability for the chemical weapons attack and we reviewed the need to understand and to deal with any likely Russian reactions to the attack,” Michael Fallon told BBC Television.

“He was then reviewing the different options to put before the president, he then called me later on to advise us of the president’s decision and to give us notice of the attack and our prime minister was kept informed throughout,” he said.

The U.S. on Friday fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched this week, an escalation of the U.S. military role in Syria that immediately raised tension with Russia.

Just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he had ordered the attack, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strike had seriously damaged ties between Washington and Moscow.

Two U.S. warships fired 59 cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the Syrian airbase controlled by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in response to a poison gas attack in a rebel-held area on Tuesday, U.S. officials said.

Putin, a staunch ally of Assad, regarded the U.S. action as “aggression against a sovereign nation” on a “made-up pretext” and a cynical attempt to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq, his spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, was cited as saying by agencies.

It was the toughest direct U.S. action yet in Syria’s six-year-old civil war and leaves Mr. Trump facing his biggest foreign policy crisis since his January 20 inauguration, raising the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main military backers.

U.S. officials said they informed Russian forces ahead of the missile attacks and that they took pains to avoid hitting Russian troops at the base, saying there were no strikes on sections of the base where Russians were present.

They said the administration did not seek Moscow’s approval.

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