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Joe Biden called off an airstrike on a second target in Syria at the last minute after intelligence reported the presence of a woman and children at the site, it has been reported.
Following 10 days of deliberations, the US president ordered the Pentagon to proceed with strikes on two Iranian-backed militia targets in Syria on February 26.
The president received an urgent warning from an aide just 30 minutes before the strike that civilians were in the area.
Battlefield reconnaissance reported a woman with children in a courtyard at one site, and the president cancelled the order to strike that target with F-15E aircraft already in the air for the mission.
The intention of the strike was to signal to leadership in Iran that the new administration would respond to provocation in the Middle East but is not seeking to escalate tensions.
US senators introduced bipartisan legislation on Wednesday to repeal decades-old authorisations for the use of military force used to justify years of attacks in the Middle East, an effort to shift back the authority to declare war to Congress from the White House.
The measure, led by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Senator Todd Young, would repeal 1991 and 2002 Authorisations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq, citing the "strong partnership" between Washington and the government in Baghdad.
Under the Constitution, Congress, not the president, has the right to authorise war.
But those AUMFs - and a third one, from 2001, for the fight against al Qaeda - have been used to justify strikes by both Democratic and Republican presidents since they were passed. They have been criticised as allowing "forever wars" that have kept U.S. forces fighting overseas for decades.