US forces launched a missile strike in Syria Thursday night, responding to a chemical attack earlier this week. Officials believe the use of chemical weapons on a rebel-controlled village in northern Syria was perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The missile strike on airfields, which reportedly killed seven people, was ordered by President Trump, a day after he said that his view of President Assad had changed vastly because of the use of chemical weapons.
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in 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 president said. “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons.”
American warships launched at least 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, targeting the Shayrat airfield, near the city of Homs, where the chemical attack is believed to have originated from, the Pentagon reported. Targeting aircrafts, petroleum and logistical storage, shelters, ammunition bunkers, radars and air defense systems at the airfield, the missiles were launched at 8:40 PM Washington time, which was early Friday morning in Syria, the Pentagon announced in a statement.
The missile strike marks a dramatic intensification of US involvement in Syria. Being the first direct American assault on Assad’s forces, it is the most significant military action of the new administration under Trump’s presidency.
The Pentagon further said that initial reports suggest that the missile strike “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”
Russia was quick to condemn the strike as an “act of aggression.” Russian officials claimed that the attacks could endanger anti-terrorist military cooperation with the US in Syria.
However, the Pentagon clarified; saying it had been in contact with Russia, allowing to protect its forces in Syria.
“Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said in a statement. “U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.”
According to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not directly notified.
Syrian armed forces said on state television, that seven people were killed in the missile attack and nine others were wounded.