The United States has launched 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syrian government targets in retaliation for what the Trump administration charges was a Syrian government chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians, US officials say.
The US strikes hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base in the central province of Homs, where US officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off.
The US missiles hit at 3:45am Friday morning in Syria and targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.
Trump called on “civilised nations” to join US in “seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria”.
“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,” he said.
Syrian state TV said “American aggression targets Syrian military targets with a number of missiles”.
The suspected poison gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on Tuesday killed at least 86 people, including 27 children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Turkey said samples from victims of the attack indicate they were exposed to sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.
“I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity and he [President Bashar al-Assad] is there, and I guess he’s running things, so something should happen,” Trump had told reporters earlier on Thursday.
At the time of the US raid, Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is holding two days of meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting Palm Beach, said: “This may be a one-off operation but it will be quite difficult now for Trump to get himself out of the argument over the future of Syria, the political future of Assad, the UN talks process in Geneva – the Trump administration is now at the centre of it all.”
He said the strike on Syria was in the “vital national security interest” of the United States.
Syria maintains it did not use chemical weapons, blaming opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals.
Russia’s defense ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian air strike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun.
“I stress, once again, that the Syrian Arab Army did not and will not use such weapons even against the terrorists who are targeting our people,” Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem told reporters in Damascus.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies