The United States (US) forces fired a barrage of more than 50 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase on Friday overnight in response to what it believes was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.
The massive strike — the first direct US action against President Bashar al-Assad’s government and Trump’s biggest military decision since taking office — marked a dramatic escalation in American involvement in Syria’s six-year civil war.
At least six people were killed, Syria claimed, but the Pentagon said civilians were not targeted and the strike was aimed at a military airfield in the western province of Homs.
The deadly chemical weapon unleashed by Syria earlier this week, followed days of outrage at images of dead children and victims suffering convulsions from suspected sarin gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.
Autopsies have confirmed that the chemical attack involved sarin gas, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there can be “no doubt” that Assad’s forces carried out the attack.
US officials said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from Navy ships in the Mediterranean at the Shayrat airfield at 3:40 am (0040 GMT), targeting the base from where Washington believes Tuesday’s deadly attack was launched.
Syria’s regime denounced the strike as a “flagrant aggression” and state news agency SANA said nine civilians including four children had been killed in villages near the base.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said in remarks from Mar-a-Lago, his family compound in Palm Beach, Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
The US attack was hailed by the Syrian opposition and supported by US allies including Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Read Trump’s full remarks below following the attack:
“On Tuesday Syrian President Bashar al Assad launched a horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians using a deadly nerve agent. Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the Untied States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.
Numerous previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all found and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.
Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syrian and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We asked for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who passed. And we hope as long as America stands for justice and peace and harmony will in the end prevail.
Good night and God Bless America and the entire world.”
By Michael Wandati