President Trump launched airstrikes in Syria late Thursday evening in response to a chemical weapons attack allegedly ordered by the Syrian government on its own people.
“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
The chemical attack on Syria on Tuesday killed over 80 civilians, the U.S. military reported. Trump condemns Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad for the death of Syrian civilians in his speech, announcing the missile strike on the origin of the chemical attack, according to U.S. radar imaging.
Fifty nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from the USS Porter and USS Ross Destroyers at about 8:40 p.m. EST (4:40 a.m, April 7 in Syria), targeting the Al Shayrat airfield in Syria, confirmed in a statement from the Pentagon. The Pentagon states that the airstrike destroyed Syrian fighter jets, shelters and ammunition storage areas, “reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”
The U.S. military avoided attacks on suspected sites of storage of the chemical agent, fearing wide dispersal of the chemical, reports ABC News.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the attack is proportional to Syria’s chemical attack on its own people, calling Syria’s possession of chemical weapons an “existential threat” in a statement.
Syria surrendered many of its chemical weapons to the United Nations after the attack in eastern Ghouta in 2013. Trump said Tuesday’s attack violated obligations under the Chemical Weapons convention.
Tillerson alleges Russia shares responsibility for Syria’s chemical attack, criticizing Russia’s negligence and failure to ensure Syria turned over its weapons stockpile. “Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been incompetent in its commitment,” he said in a joint briefing with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
Russian officials were notified in advance of the attack in an attempt to minimize Russian military casualties around the air base, the Pentagon said. Despite the warning, no immediate discussion before or after the U.S. missile attack occurred on the executive level, according to Tillerson.
A tweet from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the hours following the attack said Putin considers the U.S. actions a violation of international law.
Although the U.S. military acted alone, Tillerson said the airstrike had international support from allied governments. “The response from our allies, as well as the region and the Middle East has been overwhelmingly supportive of the action we have taken,” he said in his statement.
The Syrian military reports six deaths and several injuries, while a Syrian opposition group reports four deaths, said the Associated Press.