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U.S. opens new military front in Syria, launching cruise missiles against Assad's forces

 (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

The Pentagon launched more than 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base late Thursday in retaliation for a gruesome poison gas attack this week that U.S. officials said was carried out by President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Trump authorized the attack after he was briefed by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis in Palm Beach, Fla., where the president is hosting visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Read more: U.S. launches dozens of missiles at Syria in response to chemical weapons attack >>

Two Navy destroyers patrolling in the eastern Mediterranean Sea fired lethal salvos of Tomahawk cruise missiles into eastern Syria from hundreds of miles offshore, well out of range of Syrian air defenses, according to U.S. officials.

The target was Shayrat airfield, with two runways in western Syria that were used by Assad's warplanes to launch a chemical attack Tuesday against civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikoun, the officials said.

Targets included aircraft, fuel and weapons depots, and command and control facilities in Assad's stronghold, officials said. Pentagon officials said they were assessing the results of the strikes, adding that there were no plans for additional strikes Thursday.

The attack marks the first time the U.S. has deliberately targeted Assad's military in Syria's multi-sided civil war, now in its seventh year. Until now, the U.S. has focused only on targeting Islamic State militants.

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