US ships stationed in the Mediterranean Sea reportedly launched the strike on Syria’s Shayrat airbase on Thursday night local time.
US President Donald Trump spoke from his Mar-a-Lago resort following the airstrikes, accusing Assad of using nerve gas that killed civilians in Idlib.
Calling it a “targeted military strike,” Trump said the Homs airfield was where the chemical gas attack earlier this week originated from.
Trump described the attack as defending a “vital national security interest” and called upon “civilized nations” to help 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,” Trump said. “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically.”
Fifty-nine US Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were launched from the US warships USS Porter and USS Ross from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement. Davis added that “extraordinary measures” were taken “to avoid civilian casualties,” and that “every precaution was taken” to minimize the “risk to personnel at the airfield.”
The Pentagon has released photos of Tomahawk missiles, showing the moment they were being launched from the US warships in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to Syria.
Speaking live on Al-Mayadeen TV, the governor of Homs province Talal Barazi said that there were five dead and seven injured in the strike on airbase.
Barazi said said American strike at the Syrian army installation was helping terrorist forces.
“Syrian leadership and Syrian policy will not change,” Talal Barazi said in a phone interview with state television, as cited by Reuters. “This targeting was not the first and I don’t believe it will be the last.”
Syria’s state SANA news agency cited a military source on the ground as confirming the strike and claiming that it resulted in casualties.
The airfield was allegedly targeted after the US blamed the Syrian military for the chemical incident in Idlib, in which dozens of civilians died from suspected gas poisoning in the rebel-occupied territory. Up to 86 people, including 26 children, are alleged to have been killed. Several Western states have immediately pinned the blame on Assad’s forces, while Russia said Syrian jets bombed a warehouse where chemical weapons were being produced.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has accused Russia of failing to carry out the 2013 agreement to secure Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, claiming Moscow was either incompetent or complicit. However, the responsibility to remove and destroy the weapons was never laid on Moscow. The Organization for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was charged with the task and has been verifying that Damascus kept its part of the bargain jointly with the UN.
Tillerson claimed that the US had high degree of confidence that sarin gas has been used in the alleged chemical attack. He did not offer explanation as to why the people responding to the incident were apparently not affected by sarin despite not wearing any protection gear, as footage released by the activists suggested.
Video footage allegedly capturing the moment of the strike has emerged on social media, reportedly filmed by a resident near Shayrat airbase. Repeated loud noises, allegedly from explosions, can be heard in the video and bright sparks are seen moving across the dark sky.
The Lebanon-based CEO of AlMasdar News, Leith Abou Fadel, reported on Twitter that the strike has resulted in no casualties among the Syrian or Russian military, adding that the missiles targeted the same area on the airfield.