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For residents of Syria's capital, the attack packed a jolt but didn't shake their resolve

Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

For one Damascus resident, the earliest indication of the tripartite air strikes on the Syrian capital was the sound.

"These ones had a loud roar ... louder than the ones we normally hear," said Nicholas Zahr, a Damascus-based analyst reached via Facebook early Saturday. "We're not used to the sound of these missiles."

Another resident, a Syrian government employee who was not authorized to speak publicly, said: "We woke up from the sound.... We thought it was thunder. We didn't get what was happening in the beginning.

"Then we saw lights of the air defenses in the sky."

Those air defenses, Syrian state media claimed, intercepted dozens of missiles, including 13 targeting the town of Kisweh, 10 miles south of Damascus, and another barrage near the central city of Homs. Yet many made it to their target.

The Pentagon said U.S., French and British forces unleashed about 120 missiles against a scientific center near Damascus that was used for research, development and production of chemical and biological agents; a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs; and a separate chemical agent storage site and command post near Homs. Officials would not say whether any of the missiles were intercepted.

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It was soon over, Leith Aboufadel, a Damascus-based journalist, said on Twitter. Within an hour, the air raid sirens had stopped, and "just like that, it's quiet in Damascus now."

Meanwhile, Syrian state television showed one of its reporters, Kenan Ahmad, walking near Umayyad Square, a major stop for drivers in the city. He interviewed some of those who had begun their morning commute as dawn came to the city.

"We're going around in our car to prove to the whole world that Syria is fine and that everything is fine," said one driver, before driving off.

That projected image of nonchalance continued as the day wore on.

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