The Latest: France releases assessment of Douma attack

The Latest on U.S.-led missile strikes on Syria (all times local):

4:30 a.m.

France’s government says it has no samples of the chemical weapons it believes were used in Syria, but launched a military response based on open-source information and intelligence gathering.

France released its assessment Saturday of what happened in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7. It was the basis for France’s involvement in a joint military operation launched Saturday with the U.S. and Britain to target Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

The assessment cites “the absence to date of chemical samples analyzed by our own laboratories.” It says the government evaluated publicly available information from non-governmental organizations and other sources as well as unspecified French intelligence.

It concludes that there is “no plausible scenario other than that of an attack by Syrian armed forces.” Syria denies responsibility and says it gave up its chemical arsenal.

The assessment notes eight chlorine attacks ahead of the “major attack” on Douma and 44 allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria over the past year.

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4:20 a.m.

The Russian military says Syria’s Soviet-made air defense systems have downed 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched by the United States and its allies.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff says Saturday’s strike hasn’t caused any casualties and Syrian military facilities targeted by the U.S., Britain and France have suffered only minor damage.

He says the Russian air defense assets in Syria monitored the strike but didn’t engage any of the missiles.

Rudskoi says the Syrian military used Soviet-made air defense missile systems with high efficiency, shooting down all of the missiles aimed at four key Syrian air bases.

He notes that Russia in the past refrained from providing Syria with its state-of-the-art S-300 air defense missile systems on Western prodding but could reconsider it now.

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4 a.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced a strike on Syria launched by the United States and its allies as an “act of aggression” that will exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.

In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader says Moscow is calling an emergency meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council over the strike launched by the U.S., Britain and France.

Putin added that the strike had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.”

He reaffirmed Russia’s view that a purported chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma that prompted the strike was a fake. Putin added that Russian military experts who inspected Douma found no trace of the attack. He criticized the U.S. and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog to visit the area.

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3:20 a.m.

Israel says in response to the American-led strike in Syria that the Middle Eastern country’s “murderous actions” put itself in danger.

An official says in a statement Saturday that President Donald Trump made clear last year that the use of chemical weapons was a red line not to be crossed.

He says the overnight operation carried out by the United States, France and Britain followed that example. The official says that “Syria continues to carry out murderous actions and be a base for these actions and others, including Iran’s, that put its territory, forces and leadership in peril.”

The official spoke anonymously according to protocol. There has been no other official Israeli response yet.

Israel has issued several stern warnings of late about Iran’s increased involvement along its border in Syria in Lebanon.

— Aron Heller in Jerusalem

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has expressed his support for the airstrikes on Syria authorized by Prime Minister Theresa May.

Johnson tweeted Saturday that he welcomed the news of the military strike against major chemical weapons facilities in Syria in concert with “our U.S. and French allies.”

Johnson said: “The world is united in its disgust for any use of chemical weapons, but especially against civilians.”

May authorized the strikes without a vote from Parliament, which has been in recess. She had received support from her Cabinet in a crisis session.

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3:15 a.m.

The United States, France and Britain launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for an apparent chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again, President Donald Trump said. Syrians crowded onto the streets in noisy demonstrations of defiance afterward and their ally Russia denounced the attack.

Pentagon officials said the attacks targeted the heart of Assad’s programs to develop and produce chemical weapons.

Syrian television reported that Syria’s air defenses, which are substantial, responded to the attack. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there were no reports of U.S. losses in what he described as a heavy but carefully limited assault.

Source.