The U.S. has launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles aimed at Syria, and they hit the al-Shayrat airfield near Homs at about 8:45 p.m. Eastern Thursday evening.
The missiles hit infrastructure, aircraft and the runway, according to NBC News. A U.S. military official said the munitions were not aimed at people. There have been no reports indicating whether there were any casualties.
Watch Russian footage of Syrian air base after U.S. strike:
The Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. warships, USS Ross and USS Porter, in the Mediterranean Sea.
From his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, President Donald Trump said the U.S. strike on Syria was in the “vital national security interest” of the U.S.
Watch President Trump’s statements on the U.S. strike:
The following are President Trump’s remarks from Florida:
My fellow Americans,
On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians using a deadly nerve agent.
Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.
No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
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 U.N. security council.
Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.
As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.
Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.
We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world.
We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed.
And we hope that as long as America stands for justice that peace and harmony will in the end prevail.
Goodnight, and God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.
The Russians were given advanced warning of the U.S. strike, according to a military official. There were Russians at the base during the strike. The U.S. did not target Russian assets.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said: “Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike … U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.”
Watch the U.S. launch Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria:
Russia deputy U.N. envoy Vladimir Safronkov said Thursday there would be “negative consequences” if the U.S. conducted military strikes on Syria following Tuesday’s deadly gas attacks.
“We have to think about negative consequences, negative consequences, and all the responsibility if military action occurred will be on shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise,” Safronkov said when reporters asked him about the possibility of U.S. strikes.
Safronkov said such “negative consequences” can be seen in Iraq and Libya.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Russia was “either complicit or incompetent” in its handling of the 2013 agreement designed to stop Assad from keeping chemical weapons stockpiles.
“[Russia said it] would act as the guarantor that these weapons would no longer be present in Syria,” Tillerson said. “Clearly, Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitments from 2013. Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement.”
Tillerson called the strikes “proportionate” and said the U.S. has a “high degree of confidence” that sarin gas was used in an attack in Idlib. He said the airstrikes will mean “no change” in U.S. policy toward Syria:
This clearly indicates the president is willing to take decisive action when called for.
I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today. There has been no change in that status.
I think it does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line and cross the line on violating commitments they’ve made and cross the line in the most heinous of ways.
Syrian state TV reported Thursday, “American aggression targets Syrian military targets with a number of missiles.”
Whether it’s a U.S. military attack or a coordinated response from an international coalition, Syria apparently will be paying for the poison gas attack that killed dozens, including many children.
Called a war crime by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the apparent chemical weapons attack killed at least 86 people, including 26 children, in a town in Syria’s Idlib province held by rebels fighting the Bashar al-Assad government.
President Trump previously has said Syria wasn’t a high priority for the U.S., but he abruptly changed his position, calling it a “heinous” act that “crossed a lot of lines for me.”
Late Thursday evening, Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: “‘Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished’ Proverbs 11:21 #SyriaChemicalAttack.”
In a statement Thursday evening, Rubio said:
I salute the bravery and skill of the men and women of our armed forces who conducted this mission. Tonight’s strike against the Assad regime’s Shayrat airbase will hopefully diminish his capacity to commit atrocities against innocent civilians.
By acting decisively against the very facility from which Assad launched his murderous chemical weapons attack, President Trump has made it clear to Assad and those who empower him that the days of committing war crimes with impunity are over.
What must follow is a real and comprehensive strategy to ensure that Assad is no longer a threat to his people and to U.S. security, and that Russia no longer has free rein to support his regime.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warned President Trump to seek Congress’ authorization for military action. He released the following statement: “While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked. The president needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., called the action “appropriate and just.” He released the following statement:
Earlier this week, the Assad regime murdered dozens of innocent men, women and children in a barbaric weapons attack. Tonight, the United States responded. This action was appropriate and just. These tactical strikes make clear that the Assad regime can no longer count on American inaction as it carries out atrocities against the Syrian people.
Resolving the years-long crisis in Syria is a complex task, but Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable, and his enablers must be persuaded to change course. I look forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “In both word and action, President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”
Tillerson had said Thursday that “steps are under way” to assemble an international coalition to remove Assad from power in Syria.
“Assad’s role in the future is uncertain and with the acts he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people,” Tillerson said.
The Daily Caller said “several members of Congress” were relating that President Trump said a military intervention in Syria was not out of the question.
Trump, in an address Wednesday, said, “The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this horrific attack and all other horrific attacks, for that matter.”
The Washington Examiner had reported the Pentagon was drawing up “options” for a potential military response.
“There are very senior level meetings under way, but I have not seen a concrete plan,” the Examiner quoted one unidentified Pentagon source saying.
The meetings reportedly involved Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.
“Options, yes. We are in the business of providing options,” the report quoted a second military official revealing. “I would watch this one closely.”
The report said the American assessment was that Assad’s air force dropped a chemical weapon from an aircraft on the unsuspecting citizens of Khan Sheikhoun.
“We watched the aircraft circle over the area,” one official told the Examiner.
According to CNN, Russia was challenging Trump to provide details of his plans.
“Russia’s approach to Assad is clear,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharaova told CNN in a text message. “He is the legal president of an independent state. What is the U.S. approach?”
Experts have confirmed that the victims’ symptoms, such as asphyxiation and foaming at the mouth, align with the known symptoms caused by sarin, a deadly nerve gas.
CNN said a new draft resolution against Syrian was being drawn up in the United Nations, and the U.S., U.K. and France were calling for a vote.
Syria has denied the government was responsible, claiming a military strike on the rebels hit “a depot holding chemical weapons smuggled into the country by” terrorists.
British Prime Minister Theresa May concluded that if the attack proves to have been done by the Assad regime, “it shows the barbarism.”