President Donald Trump ordered a massive military strike on a Syrian air base on Thursday in retaliation for a “barbaric” chemical attack he blamed on President Bashar al-Assad.
In a brief televised address delivered hours after the UN Security Council failed to agree on a prove into the apparent chemical attack, Trump confirmed the US strike on Syria and urged “all civilized nations” to unite to end the bloodshed in the country.
“On Tuesday Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians using a deadly nerve agent,” Trump said. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”
“Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types,” Trump said.
The US military fired dozens of cruise missiles at the Shayrat Airfield at 8:45 pm Eastern Time (0000 GMT), officials said.
A White House official said 59 “precision munitions” had been blasted at the base, while a US defense official said “dozens” of Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched.
The missiles were fired from the USS Porter and the USS Ross, which belong to the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet and are located in the eastern Mediterranean. A US official said the missiles targeted aircraft and runways at the base.
The sudden US military action against the Assad regime marks a stunning development in Syria’s brutal, six-year conflict and a sudden about-face for Trump.
It came despite a warning from Russia of potential “negative consequences” if Washington strikes Syria.
“All responsibility if military action occurs will be on the shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful tragic enterprise,” Russian Ambassador to the UN Vladimir Safronkov said.
A US official said Washington had informed Russia ahead of the Syria strike.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had earlier vowed an “appropriate response” to the attack in Khan Sheikhun in rebel-held Idlib province, which killed at least 86 people, including 27 children.
The White House official said the United States assesses that the Assad regime used a chemical nerve agent consistent with sarin in Tuesday’s attacks.