The United States launched dozens of cruise missiles Thursday night at a Syrian airfield in response to what it believes was Syria’s use of banned chemical weapons that killed at least 100 people, the U.S. military said.
Two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea, the USS Ross and the USS Porter, fired 59 Tomahawk missiles intended for a single target — Shayrat Airfield in Homs province in western Syria, the Defense Department said. That’s the airfield from which the United States believes the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired the banned weapons.
The Pentagon said people were not targeted, and there was no immediate word on casualties. U.S. officials told NBC News that aircraft and infrastructure at the site were hit, including the runway and gas fuel pumps.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” President Donald Trump said in remarks from Mar-a-Lago, his family compound in Palm Beach, FloridaUnited Nations.
“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” said Trump, who called on other countries to end the bloodshed in Syria.
A White House official told NBC News that more than two dozen members of Congress were briefed by administration officials on the missile strike. Vice President Mike Pence returned to the White House after having gone home for dinner Thursday evening and monitored the events from the Situation Room, officials said.
Trump is in Florida for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinpeng. Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster traveled to Florida with him.
“We feel that the strike itself was proportional, because it was targeted at the facility that delivered this most recent chemical weapons attack,” Tillerson told reporters on Thursday night.
“There was a thorough examination of a wide range of options, and I think the president made the correct choice and made the correct decision,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson and Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, have bluntly blamed Syria for the chemical weapons attack, whose victims included at least 25 children.
In a combative speech at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, Haley warned: “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.”
McMaster said the missile strike wouldn’t have wiped out Assad’s “capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons.” But he said: “This was not a small strike. I mean, it was not a small strike. And I think what it does communicate is a big shift in Assad’s calculus — it should be, anyway.”
Full article: U.S. Launches Missiles at Syrian Base After Chemical Weapons Attack (NBC News)