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Russia Says US Missile Strike On Syrian Air Base 'Violation Of International Law'

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) -- Russia continues to condemn the U.S. military strike on Syria, calling it an "aggression" and a "violation of international law."

The White House says it is not planning another airstrike on Syria, unless Assad unleashes chemical weapons again, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council Friday, Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, said the U.S. should "immediately cease its aggression.''

He called the strike a "flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression'' and said "consequences for regional and international security could be extremely serious,'' adding that Russia firmly stands by the Syrian government.

But U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said "the world is waiting for the Russian government to act responsibly in Syria."

"The United States took a very measured step last night," she said "We are prepared to do more. But we hope that will not be necessary. It is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution."

Haley also blamed Russia, which was supposed to guarantee Syria was stripped of its chemical weapons in 2013.

"Obviously that has not happened, as innocent Syrians continue to be murdered in chemical attacks," she said.

Two U.S. Navy war ships fired off 59 cruise missiles, targeting an air base in central Syria Thursday night. Syrian military officials said at least six soldiers were killed and several were wounded.

Senior defense officials say about 20 aircraft were destroyed, and satellite pictures from the Pentagon highlight the destruction of numerous aircraft shelters, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.

Meanwhile, the Syrian military released video of its officers visiting the targeted air base, showing little in the way of damage.

In a statement earlier Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin believes President Donald Trump ordered the strikes under a "far-fetched pretext."

Russia's Foreign Ministry said "the actions taken today by the U.S.A. further destroy Russian-American relations."

Also on Friday, Syrian President Bashar Assad called the U.S. strike "reckless" and "irresponsible" while Syria's army decried the strike as "an outrageous aggression"  and declared the U.S. a "partner with ISIS, Nusra, and other terrorist groups," CBS News reported.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was among the senators briefed on the situation Friday.

"The airfield in Sharyat, where he launched the chemical attack, was severely degraded, and I think certainly in the short to mid-term it degrades his ability to conduct future attacks," he said.

Rubio was asked how concerned he is about Russia.

"I think they should be more concerned about us than we are about them," he replied.

Trump ordered the air strike in response to this week's chemical weapons attack the Syrian government carried out against a Syrian village, killing more than 80 civilians. 

The president talked about the missile strike from his Mar-a-Lago estate Thursday night.

"Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched," Trump said. "Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria."

Trump said there is "no dispute" that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violating its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

"Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically," he said. "As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies."

Press Secretary Sean Spicer shared a photo of the president on Twitter of Trump receiving a briefing from his National Security team.

In a second tweet, Spicer said the photo was taken after the strike around 9:15 p.m. Thursday at Mar-a-Lago.

Asked whether the White House believes Assad should be forced out, Spicer would only say the use of weapons like sarin gas has got to end.

"The Syrian goverment, the Assad regime should at the minimum agree to abide by the agreements they made not to use chemical weapons," he said. "I think that should be a minimum standard throughout the world. I think that's where we start."

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the president made the decision to strike Thursday. He called the Russian response to the strikes disappointing but not surprising.

The strikes add urgency to Tillerson's trip to Moscow next week, Aiello reported.

Before the strikes, Tillerson issued a warning to Russia and told reporters that serious action was needed against Assad to punish him for the civilian deaths during the gas attack.

"It's a serious matter, it requires a serious response," he said. "It is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime."

Assad has denied carrying out Tuesday's chemical attack, saying chemical agents were released from a rebel stockpile that was hit during conventional strikes by Syrian warplanes.

Russia, which backed up that explanation, argued Friday that the chemical weapons capabilities of the rebels were being ignored, CBS News reported.

A rebel commander, Jamil al-Saleh, said "Bashar's regime only understands force" and said he hopes the strike "is a turning point and not a passing thing.''

Former President Barack Obama had threatened action against Syria, but backed down after Assad promised to turn over the country's chemical weapons.

"We saw President Obama draw a red line," said CBS News senior national security analyst Fran Townsend. "We saw President Trump enforce it last night."

Security experts say the airstrikes will probably stop Assad from using additional chemical weapons, but it's not likely that he'll relinquish his power, CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported.

"This will deter him, but we did not go after regime commanding control," said CBS News senior national security contributor and former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morrell. "And so that will also send him a message that we are not trying to force him out militarily." 

Other world leaders and officials have expressed support for the air strike.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudea said, "I spoke with the president directly and emphasized that Canada agrees that Assad's repeated use of chemical weapons must not continue. In the face of such heinous war crimes, all civilized peoples must speak with one voice."

British Prime Minister Theresa May's office said it was "an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime.''

In a tweet Friday, European Union Council President Donald Tusk said the "U.S. strikes show needed resolve against barbaric chemical attacks. EU will work with the US to end brutality in Syria.''

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said "the Syrian regime bears the full responsibility for this development.''

"Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, cannot go unanswered, and those responsible must be held accountable,'' Stoltenberg said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said "the resolve of the U.S. government of never tolerating the proliferation and use of chemical weapons.''

Iran's Foreign Ministry called the strike "dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law.''

The United Arab Emirates praised Trump's "courageous and wise decision'' and said the U.S. had its "full support." 

Local officials and other lawmakers across the country have also been responding to the strike.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., released a statement saying "making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do.‎"

"It is now incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it. I salute the professionalism and skill of our Armed Forces who took action today," he continued.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told CBS2's Tony Aiello that after the drama Thursday night, the challenge now is diplomacy.

"While this may have sent a message to Assad: 'Do not use chemical weapons or otherwise there's a consequence,' the real issue is how do we change Russia and Iran's calculation to continue supporting Assad," he said.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called the chemical attack in Syria "a heinous act and a crime against humanity" but said "escalation without the support of Congress, the American people, and our allies would create more instability and put lives at risk."

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, D-Rockland/Westchester, said, "There is no place in human society for chemical weapons and those who use such barbaric tools must be held accountable."

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy called the strike "an ill-thought out military action with absolutely no overall strategy for Syria" that he said "risks dragging us further into a civil war in which we cannot tip the scales."

Crowds gathered in Manhattan's Union Square on Friday night to protest the airstrikes.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said on Twitter: "While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked."

"The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution," he said.

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said Trump should not have ordered the strike "without coming to Congress.''

Many Republicans are saying this was a one-time attack, not the start of a sustained bombing campaign.

The president defended his decision.

"It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons," he said.

U.S. officials tell CBS News that Syrians were not able to scramble any of their planes in time to avoid the strike.

In response, Russia said it would also help the Syrian military to "protect the most sensitive facilities of the Syrian infrastructure" saying "a set of measures will be taken in the immediate future to reinforce and raise the effectiveness of the Syrian armed forces' air defense system."

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