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US strikes on Syria: Donald Trump hails action, says Assad 'choked out lives of helpless'

Washington: Senator Marco Rubio said the next step in Syria should be to work with Sunni governments to discuss "an alternative" government in Syria, even as US President Donald Trump poured scorn on Bashar al-Assad for "chocking out the lives of helpless men".

Rubio is a Florida Republican and onetime rival of US President Donald Trump. The conservative told NBC's Today Show that Trump should reach out to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates as well as Turkey, to discuss ways to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and create a new regime.

US President-elect Donald Trump. Reuters

US President Donald Trump. Reuters

Assad has not responded to diplomatic pressure in the past, but Rubio says the military strikes could change that. "We need to now move forward through a combination of diplomacy and, quite frankly, the support of groups on ground, particularly non-jihadist Sunni groups, to create alternatives to the Assad regime."

President Donald Trump cast the United States assault on a Syrian air base as vital to deter future use of poison gas and called on other nations to join in seeking "to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria".

The US blasted the air base on Thursday night with a barrage of cruise missiles in fiery retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians.

It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump's most dramatic military order since becoming president just over two months ago. The strikes also risk thrusting the US deeper into an intractable conflict that his predecessor Barack Obama spent years trying to avoid.

Announcing the assault from his Florida resort, Trump said there was no doubt Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical attack, which he said employed banned gases and killed dozens. "Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children," Trump declared.

The US strikes — 59 missiles launched from the USS Ross and USS Porter — hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base in central Syria, where US officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off from.

The US missiles hit at 3:45 am on Friday morning. The missiles targeted the base's airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.

The Syrian military said at least six people were killed and several were wounded in the strikes on the air base. Trump ordered the strikes without approval from Congress or the backing of the United Nations. US officials said he had the right to use force to defend national interests and to protect civilians from atrocities.

Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 17:51 PM

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