The United States launched a military strike Thursday on an airbase in Syria, multiple U.S. officials have confirmed, launching more than 50 missiles at an air base in the country.
The officials say the airstrike, which targeted Shayrat Air Base in Homs Province where a chemical attack was initiated earlier in the week, struck multiple targets with tomahawk missiles launched between 8:40 and 8:50 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, from destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Mediterranean Sea.
President Donald Trump said the strike was in the “vital national security interest” of the U.S.
On Tuesday, a chemical weapon attack on a Syrian town killed at least 86 civilians. Blame for the assault has landed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad despite the Syrian government’s condemnation of the attack and insistence that rebels fighting in the country’s civil war were at fault. The Turkish Health Ministry later determined that Sarin was used in the attack, based upon autopsies of some of the victims.
A U.S. official said that radar spotted a Syrian military fixed-wing aircraft dropping chemical weapons bombs earlier in the week and that airstrike appeared to intentionally seek out an underground hospital operated by a rebel group.
“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,” Trump said Thursday night. “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.”
A U.S. official said that Russia, which has troops on the ground in Syria, was notified of the airstrikes in advance.
About 30 minutes before the U.S. strikes were reported, Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy representative to the United Nations told reporters in New York that Russia was receiving signals of an attack being prepared and warned that people were not asking about possible consequences, Interfax reported.
“For you journalists it’s not a secret, and for us working on the diplomatic front, it’s not a secret that all these discussions in the Security Council are leaking out against the background of real clamor about preparations for a military operation,” Safronkov said. “We are also receiving direct signals on this theme that such a military operation is being prepared.”
Safronkov continued, “Moreover, what surprises most of all is that now is asking themselves the question about possible consequences.”