As warplanes return to scene of sarin attack, Trump defends missile launch

The Guardian reports: In the quiet streets of Khan Sheikhun, people mourned the dead from a sarin attack, bracing for the next raid. At an airbase near Homs, government warplanes roared back into action, their targets unknown. And not far from his golf course in south Florida, the president of the United States cried out a defense on Twitter.

“The reason you don’t generally hit runways,” Donald Trump wrote, “is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix (fill in and top)!”

The president’s exclamation followed a more formal justification of his decision to launch 59 missiles at a Syrian government airbase on Thursday, the first direct attack by the US against Bashar al-Assad after six years of civil war.

Trump sent Congress a letter invoking war powers as the authority behind his order, saying the strike was directed “in the vital national security and foreign policy interests” of the United States.

The missiles were meant “to degrade” Assad’s ability to conduct chemical weapons attacks, Trump wrote, and “to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons”.

On Saturday, with the airbase in action, warplanes killed a woman and injured one other person in Khan Sheikhun, monitoring groups said. It was not immediately clear where the planes came from, although the Syrian government and its Russian allies are the only airforces operating in the area.

It was also reported by monitoring groups that air strikes killed at least 18 people including five children in Urum al-Joz, another town in Idlib province, on Saturday. The toll was expected to rise.

The casualties were a bloody reminder that while Trump may have redrawn the US red line on chemical weapons use, there have been no clues to his views on the wider conflict. [Continue reading…]

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