US airstrike proposal in Syria could result in Russian deaths: report

US airstrike proposal in Syria could result in Russian deaths: report
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U.S. officials are weighing a proposal for an airstrike against Syrian military targets that would likely result in the deaths of Russian troops operating in the country, The Intercept reported Thursday.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTop nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One MORE is expected to deliver the Pentagon's proposals to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Thursday.

Among those plans is a proposal for a "saturation strike" on Syrian military targets, including airfields, two military officials told The Intercept. 

But that plan would likely lead to Russian casualties in Syria, the officials said. It would break from previous U.S. strategy under the Obama administration to avoid military action in the country that could cause Russian deaths.

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The proposals come on the heels of a chemical weapons attack in northern Syria on Tuesday that killed scores of civilians. The strike was allegedly carried out by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, though the Syrian government denies responsibility.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. pushed for the removal of Assad, whom Syrian rebels have been fighting to oust since 2011. Russia, on the other hand, has backed the regime and provided military support to the Syrian government.

Compounding the situation is the fact that the many of the Syrian military's airfields are near civilian-inhabited areas, increasing the risk of civilian casualties from a potential U.S. airstrike.

The U.S. currently has military forces in Syria, though they are acting in an advising capacity and are not directly involved in combat.