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U.S. airstrikes targeted Syrian chemical weapons infastructure

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(CBS News photo) (CBS News photo)

The U.S. military targeted a research center, a storage facility that is believed to have a stockpile of chemical weapons and a command post in Syria, the Pentagon said late Friday night. The strikes were in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma, near Damascus. 

"Tonight, France, the United Kingdom and the United States took decisive action to strike the Syrian chemical weapons' infrastructure," Defense Secretary James Mattis said. "We sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons' attack for which they will be held accountable." 

The first target was a scientific research center located in the greater Damascus area, which Mattis said was used for "the research, development, production, and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology." The other two targets were in the Homs area. One of those targets was a chemical weapons storage facility, which the Pentagon assessed as the  primary location of Syrian sarin and precursor production storage. The last target was a chemical weapons storage facility and an important command post.

"Important infrastructure was destroyed which will result in a setback for the Syrian regime," Mattis said. "They will lose years of research data, specialized equipment, and extensive chemical weapons precursors."

Mattis called these a "one-time shot" and said "this wave of airstrikes is over." As of late Friday, there were "no reports of losses" by U.S. or its allies. 

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said there was no coordination with Russians and "nor did we pre-notify them." 

Mattis noted that last year, U.S. forces conducted a "unilateral strike on a single site," whereas he said these strikes "will result in a long term degradation to the Syrians' capability to research, develop, and employ biological and chemical weapons."

CBS News foreign correspondent Seth Doane, who is in Damascus, said that as President Trump was speaking, "we could hear rumbling in a distance and also see and hear what appeared to be anti-aircraft fire." 

"The strike has been what many people here are bracing for," Doane said. 

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