The United States has launched dozens of missiles at a government airfield in western Syria.
The attack comes hours after Trump said that “something should happen” in the wake of a deadly chemical weapon attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian government. Trump called the attack a “disgrace to humanity.”
Speaking from Mar-a-Lago, US president Donald Trump said: “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 United 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.”
The US Department of Defense said in a statement that the president “ordered the attack on Al-Shayrat Air Base, the base from which the chemical attack on Syria’s Idlib province was launched.” The missiles were launched from Navy ships in the Eastern Mediterranean, it said.
Earlier on Thursday, Turkey said the banned nerve agent sarin was found in autopsies of some of the scores of people who were killed, including dozens of women and children.
The attacks mark the first time the United States has attacked the Assad regime. It previously armed anti-government rebels and conducted air strikes and covert operations against Islamist groups within Syria. During the president Barack Obama’s second term, Trump strongly spoke against US military intervention in Syria, and urged him not to act without congressional approval.
The strike comes as Trump hosts Chinese president Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The two leaders were having a formal sit-down dinner with their wives on Thursday night while the strikes were underway.
China, like Russia, has previously vetoed UN efforts to impose sanctions against Syria over alleged chemical weapons attacks.
Ben Cardin, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the US military action sent a clear signal that the US will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons but added that “any longer-term or larger military operation in Syria by the Trump administration will need to be done in cooperation with the Congress.” Cardin said he would work with congressional colleagues to have the administration clearly articulate its strategy on Syria.
Reactions from other nations broke along predictable lines. Russia and Iran opposed the United States action, with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling it “an act of aggression against a sovereign country violating the norms of international law,” according to a spokesman. Officials also warned this would erode ties with the US further.
Britain and France, which along with the US have been trying to move forward a UN Security Council resolution calling for Syria’s cooperation on an investigation of the events of April 4, the day of the attack, backed the US strike. The British government said this was an ”appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack.” Saudi Arabia also expressed support for the US military action, while Turkey said Assad must be removed.
China, whose leader will be having a second day of talks with Trump on Friday, said it is opposed to any use of chemical weapons and repeated a call for a UN investigation.