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U.S. Says It's Still 'Locked And Loaded' For New Strikes In Syria

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during the emergency UN Security Council meeting on Syria in New York, on April 14.

The United States has warned Syria's government that it is "locked and loaded" to strike again if Damascus carries out chemical attacks.

The warning came after the United States, along with allies France and Britain, launched air strikes on Syria on April 14 in response to a suspected Syrian chemical attack that killed dozens of people last week.

The United Nations Security Council on April 14 rejected an effort by Russia, a key ally of Syria, to denounce it as an unjustified "aggression" against a sovereign state.

The wave of missile strikes was the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad's government by Western powers in seven years of Syria's brutal civil war

There was a heated exchange at the UN Security Council emergency meeting as Moscow looked to secure condemnation of the missile strikes.

Russia's UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzya, read out a quote from President Vladimir Putin accusing the allies of "cynical disdain" in acting without waiting for the results of a chemical-watchdog investigation into the alleged chemical attack in the former rebel-held town of Douma on April 7.

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are in Damascus and are expected to visit Douma during the weekend.

Nebenzya accused the United States, Britain, and France of "hooliganism" and of "demonstrating a blatant disregard for international law."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council that the military strikes were "justified, legitimate, and proportionate."

"I spoke to the president this morning and he said, 'If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded'," she said.

"When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line," she added.

Syrian envoy to the UN Bashar Jaafari claimed that the Douma attack was a "masquerade" mounted by rebels.

Assad said the strike would increase Syria's resolve to "fight and crush terrorism in every inch" of the country.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Army also announced on April 14 that the eastern Ghouta region, where Douma is situated, had been cleared of the last rebel fighters and was fully retaken.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said an explosion rocked an area in northern Syria where pro-government Iranian fighters and allied Shi'ite militias were based.

The group said the source of the blast on April 14 was not immediately clear and could have been caused by an air strike or an incident.

U.S. President Donald Trump praised the military strike on Syria as a "perfectly executed" operation and said it was aimed at ending the use of such weapons of mass destruction.

The White House said Trump spoke to British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron later on April 14.

The White House said the leaders agreed the air strikes in Syria "were successful and necessary to deter" the future use of chemical weapons.

At a Pentagon briefing on April 14, Lieutenant-General Kenneth McKenzie said three sites that are "fundamental components of the regime's chemical-weapons infrastructure" were struck.

The three sites included the Barzah chemical-weapons research and development center near Damascus that was hit by 76 missiles and "destroyed."

McKenzie said the Him Shinshar chemical-weapons storage facility near Homs was hit by 22 missiles.

He added that the Him Shinshar chemical-weapons bunker facility near Homs was targeted with seven missiles and was "successfully hit."

McKenzie said the operation was "precise, overwhelming, and effective,” adding it will set Syria’s chemical-weapons program back "for years."

With reporting by AP and AFP