Warplanes strike Syrian town where chemical attack killed dozens.image courtesy:ABC News

Warplanes on Saturday struck the Syrian town where a chemical attack had killed scores of people earlier this week The airstrikes on the opposition-held northern town of Khan Sheikhoun, killed a woman and wounded her son, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees.

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Smoke billows following a reported airstrike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian

It’s the same town where 87 people were killed in a chemical attack earlier this week.

The chemical attack prompted the U.S. to rain down 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on Syria’s Shayrat Airfield early Friday, marking the first time Washington has directly targeted Syrian forces since the civil war began in 2011.

In a letter on Saturday to Congress, Trump officially explained his rationale for getting America involved more forcefully in Syria.

“I directed this action in order to degrade the Syrian military’s ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons, thereby promoting the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe,” he wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch.

“The United States will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests,” Trump continued, adding that his report is “part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed.”

Trump also suggested on Twitter that the U.S. wasn’t specifically trying to hit runways at the airfield during the operation.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meanwhile plans to meet with G7 foreign ministers in Europe next week before going on to Moscow. Johnson said Tillerson will be able to give a ‘clear and coordinated message to the Russians.’

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cancelled a planned trip to Russia because of fast-moving events in Syria. Johnson said the situation in Syria has changed fundamentally following the chemical attack and the U.S. response.

Johnson condemned Russia’s continued defence of Assad even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.

The move was welcomed by the Syrian opposition and its main backers, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but harshly condemned by Russia and Iran, who back Assad and said striking his forces would complicate the struggle against extremist groups.

Syria’s government has denied carrying out any chemical attack, and Russia’s Defence Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the U.S. strike should be the start of a renewed effort to end the civil war, which has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.

He said the best outcome would be a peace agreement that leads to a transitional government accepted by all Syrians, followed by elections in which all Syrians, including those living abroad, could vote for new leadership. For that to happen, he said, ‘this oppressive Assad needs to go.’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, ‘neutral countries should come and assess to make it clear where the chemical weapons came from.’

Elsewhere in Syria, U.S.-led airstrikes killed at least 21 people, including a woman and her six children who were fleeing on a boat across the Euphrates River near the Islamic State group’s self-styled capital, Raqqa, the target of a major offensive by U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces, according to sources.

In Saudi Arabia, the official Saudi Press Agency reported that U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken by telephone with King Salman about the U.S. missile strike on Syria.

The same sources reported that during the Friday phone call, the Saudi monarch congratulated Trump for his ‘courageous decision.’

Saudi Arabia said the missile launch was the right response to the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it.

The kingdom is among the most vehement opponents of Assad and supports Sunni rebel groups fighting to oust him. The Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia are in a power struggle for regional dominance with Iran’s Shiite government.