Missiles struck an air base in central Syria early today, its state-run news agency reported. Although the agency said it was likely "an American aggression," U.S. officials said the U.S. had not launched airstrikes on Syria.
SANA reported that the missile attack on the T4 military air base in Homs province resulted in a number of casualties.
The missile attack followed a suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the last remaining foothold for the Syrian opposition in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. At least 40 people were killed, including families found in their homes and shelters, opposition activists and local rescuers said.
"Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria," President Donald Trump tweeted earlier Sunday. "Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!"
Despite Trump's tweeted threat of repercussions for the suspected chemical attack, Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood said in a statement, "At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting air strikes in Syria."
The U.S. launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base last year after a chemical attack in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people. Israel also has struck inside Syria in recent years.
The suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the besieged town of Douma came almost exactly a year after the U.S. missile attack prompted by the Khan Sheikhoun deaths.
In response to the reports from Douma, Trump on Sunday blamed Syrian government forces for what he called a "mindless CHEMICAL attack." In a series of tweets, Trump held Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar Assad's chief sponsors, responsible.
The Syrian government denied the allegations, calling them fabrications.
First responders entering apartments in Douma late Saturday said they found bodies collapsed on floors, some foaming at the mouth. The opposition's Syrian Civil Defense rescue organization said the victims appeared to have suffocated.
The developments come as Trump has moved to dramatically scale back U.S. goals in Syria, pushing for a quick military withdrawal despite resistance from many of his national security advisers. Trump has given no formal order to pull out the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria or offered a public timetable other than to say the U.S. will withdraw as soon as the remaining Islamic State fighters can be vanquished.
But Trump has signaled to his advisers that, ideally, he wants all troops out within six months.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Assad heard Trump's signal that he wanted to withdraw from Syria and, "emboldened by American inaction," launched the attack. In a statement, McCain said Trump "responded decisively" last year with the air strike and urged Trump to be forceful again to "demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes."
Trump was briefed about Saturday's attack by his chief of staff, John Kelly, officials said. Trump's homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossert, noted the timing of the suspected chemical attack — almost a year to the day of the U.S. missile strikes.
"This isn't just the United States. This is one of those issues on which every nation, all peoples, have all agreed and have agreed since World War II, it's an unacceptable practice," Bossert said.
Trump was to meet with his senior military leadership today, the same day his new national security adviser, John Bolton, assumes his post. Bolton previously has advocated significant airstrikes against Syria.
Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday deemed Saturday's attack a "likely chemical attack" and reiterated Trump's threat that consequences would be coming for those responsible.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the assault on innocent lives, including children," Pence tweeted. "The Assad regime & its backers MUST END their barbaric behavior."
Trump's decision to single out Putin in a tweet appeared noteworthy because Trump long has been reluctant to personally criticize the Russian leader. Even as the White House, after some delay, imposed tough new sanctions on Russia in the wake of its U.S. election meddling and suspected poisoning of a former spy on British soil, Trump left it to others in his administration to deliver the rebukes to Moscow.
Last month, Trump called Putin and, against the counsel of his advisers, congratulated the Russian president on his re-election and invited him to the White House. On Sunday, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, urged Trump to "ramp up the pressure and the sanctions on the Russian government, because, without the support of Russia, I do not believe that Assad would still be in office."
Trump also invoked Iran in his series of tweets, further challenging Tehran while signaling he may scuttle its nuclear deal with the West. The president has often laid some blame on his predecessor, Barack Obama, for Assad's continued grip on power after years of civil war.
Obama said in 2012 that Syria's use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that would change his decision-making on intervening in the war and have "enormous consequences." After such an attack in 2013 killed hundreds outside Damascus, American ships in the Mediterranean were poised to launch missiles. But Obama pulled back after key U.S. ally Britain, as well as Congress, balked.
He opted for a Russian-backed proposal that was supposed to remove and eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.
"If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!" Trump tweeted from the White House.
SIOUX CITY -- Sioux City is proposing to switch the firm that provides security in its downtown skywalk system and parking garages.
The move comes as the three-year contract for the city's current contractor, Per Mar Security, comes to a close this month. Per Mar submitted the low bid of around $595,000 for a new three-year deal. But city staff and the Parking and Skywalk System Board of Trustees, which advises the city on parking and skywalk matters, has instead recommended the City Council accept a competing bid of around $649,000 from Sergeant Bluff-based 1st Class Security Inc.
The city earlier this year put out a request for proposals to 11 security vendors. Of the five qualifying bids listed in council documents, 1st Class Security was the middle bid. Per Mar was the lowest, followed by Securitas Security Services at $630,000.
The two higher bids included G4S Secure Solutions, at $757,785, and SC Night Patrol, at $864,864.
The request for proposals allowed an evaluation committee composed of city staff and board of trustees members to evaluate the companies on multiple criteria, including cost, experience, qualifications, proposed approaches to quality, and familiarity with the skywalk system. City documents say 1st Class Security was the unanimous choice of the board of trustees following the consideration process.
The city has approximately two miles of skywalk connecting buildings that span approximately 10 blocks in the city's downtown. They are open 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays. Two to three guards monitor the skywalk system during all hours of operation.
The cost of the contract is paid by the properties subject to skywalk assessments and the parking ramps.
Kimmel tries to tone down Hannity feud
NEW YORK — ABC late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel is trying to de-escalate a feud with Fox News host Sean Hannity that began over a joke about first lady Melania Trump's accent.
Kimmel said in a Twitter post made Sunday that his exchanges with Hannity were fun but he didn't want to add to the "vitriol" of their spat, which included Hannity calling Kimmel a "sick, twisted, creepy, perverted weirdo" during his Fox show on Friday.
Kimmel said such animosity is "harmful to our country" and he wanted to apologize "to those who took offense."
He also said President Donald Trump's wife had enough to worry about "without being used as a prop to increase TV ratings."
On ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on April 2, Kimmel prodded the first lady's reading of a children's book at the White House Easter egg hunt. He mocked the accent of the first lady, who was born in Slovenia.
Cocaine in purse? Windy day to blame
FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say a Florida woman is blaming a windy day for the cocaine that police found in her purse.
WPLG reported Kennecia Posey was one of two passengers in a car stopped by Fort Pierce police in late March. Police say an officer smelled marijuana and that, after searching the car, cocaine and marijuana in separate bags were found inside a purse Posey had on her lap.
Authorities say they questioned Posey about the drugs. According to the police report, Posey responded: "It's a windy day. It must have flown through the window and into my purse."
Posey was charged with a felony count of cocaine possession and a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession. She was later released on bond.
It wasn't immediately known if she has a lawyer.
-- Associated Press
SIOUX CITY — Only eight days into the month, Sioux City has almost surpassed its average April snowfall of 1.7 inches.
As of 1 p.m. Sunday, 1.3 inches of snow had fallen in Sioux City so far in April, according to the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls.
Andrew Kalin, an NWS meteorologist, said the snowfall isn’t unusual for this time of year.
“Once we get done with tonight’s stuff, there’s a chance you could pick up a little additional snowfall,” he said Sunday evening. “Later on, there’s some snow kind of moving down from the northwest. That may stay north of you but you could get clipped by some of that.”
While the powdery precipitation the metro has seen is normal, the low temperatures are definitely abnormal.
Kalin said the reason for that is a persistent weather flow pattern coming from the northwest, which brings cooler temperatures and storm systems, instead of the pattern coming in from the southwest, which brings in warmer temperatures, this time of year as it typically has done.
Kalin’s forecast wasn’t all doom and gloom, however. He did provide a glimmer of hope that the metro may get a taste of "actual springtime temperatures" this week.
“Monday, you’ll be right around 40 (degrees), which is right below normal; by Tuesday you’ll be up to 57 (degrees), and then the warmth really kind of sets in for the Wednesday/Thursday timeframe where you could be in the mid- to upper 60s,” he said.
While that two-day reprieve from the cold will be a welcome feeling, there’s still a chance for more snow on Friday as a system moves into the region.
“But who knows how long that’s going to stick around,” Kalin said. “Next Friday could very well bring us back down; we’ll see, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”