Blasts from airstrikes turn Damascus sky orange

Posted: Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) -

9:50 p.m.

Explosions are being heard to the east, west and south of Damascus as the U.S., U.K. and France conduct airstrikes in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government on its own people.

Witnesses saw blasts surrounding much of the Syrian capital and a huge fire could be seen from a distance to the east. An AP reporter in Damascus says the attacks turned the sky orange. Syrian television reported that a scientific research center had been hit.

Syrian media reported that Syrian defenses hit 13 rockets south of Damascus. After the attack ceased and the early morning skies went dark once more, vehicles with loudspeakers roamed the streets of Damascus blaring nationalist songs.

9:40 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says his nation, the United States and Britain have launched a military operation against the Syrian government's "clandestine chemical arsenal."

Macron says in a statement Saturday that France's "red line has been crossed" after a suspected chemical attack last week in the Syrian town of Douma.

He says there is "no doubt" that the Syrian government is responsible. President Bashar Assad's government denies responsibility.

Macron says the operation is limited to Syria's abilities to produce chemical weapons. He is not giving details about what equipment is involved in the operation or what sites it is targeting.

9:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is reiterating his call to have other nations take on more of the burden in Syria.

Trump says he has asked U.S. partners "to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-ISIS effort."

He says increased engagement from countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt can ensure that Iran does not profit from the defeat of the Islamic State group.

He adds that, "America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria -- under no circumstances" and says that, "As other nations step up our contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home."

9:20 p.m.

Syria's capital has been rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons.

Associated Press reporters in Damascus saw smoke rising from east Damascus early Saturday morning local time. Syrian state TV says the attack has begun on the capital, though it wasn't immediately clear what was targeted.

Trump announced Friday night that the U.S., France and Britain have launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians and to deter him from doing it again.

9:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is warning Russia and Iran about their association with Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad's government, as he announces the launch of retaliatory strikes after an apparent chemical weapons attack last week.

Speaking from the White House, Trump says, "To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?"

Trump calls the two countries those "most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime."

Trump says, "The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep."

He adds ominously, "Hopefully someday we'll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran, but maybe not."

9:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is asking for a "prayer for our noble warriors" as he concludes his remarks announcing strikes on targets associated with the Syrian chemical weapons program.

Trump announced the strikes, in coordination with France and Britain, from the White House Friday night. He said the three nations have "marshaled their righteous power."

Trump is also offering prayers for the Middle East and for the United States.

9:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he is "prepared to sustain" strikes against Syria until the use of chemical agents stops.

The United States, along with assurance from France and the United Kingdom, launched a response Friday against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad days after his government allegedly used chemical weapons on its citizens.

But Trump says America does not seek "an indefinite presence" in Syria and will look to pull out its troops once the Islamic State is totally defeated.

Trump has signaled in recent weeks that, despite advice from his national security team, he wanted to accelerate the timetable of the withdrawal of American forces,

9 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the United States has "launched precision strikes" on targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons program.

Trump spoke from the White House Friday night. He says a "combined operation" with France and the United Kingdom is underway.

Trump says that last Saturday, Syrian President Bashar Assad deployed chemical weapons in what was a "significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime."

8:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump is set to address the nation Friday night amid anticipation of a retaliatory strike for an apparent Syrian chemical weapon attack last week.

That's according to a source familiar with the president's plans, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Trump has said he will hold the Syrian government, as well as its Russian and Iranian allies, accountable for the suspected attack.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said Friday afternoon that Trump "is going to hold the Syrian government accountable. He's also going to hold the Russians and the Iranians who are propping up this regime responsible."

5 p.m.

The U.S. Navy was moving an additional Tomahawk missile-armed ship within striking range of Syria as President Donald Trump and his national security aides mulled the scope and timing of an expected military assault in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack.

Trump's U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, said the president had not yet made a final decision, two days after he tweeted that Russia should "get ready" because a missile attack "will be coming" at Moscow's chief Middle East ally.

The presence of Russian troops and air defenses in Syria were among numerous complications weighing on Trump, who must also consider the dangers to roughly 2,000 American troops in the country if Russia were to retaliate for U.S. strikes.
 

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