It’s the first direct US assault on the Syrian government– and Donald Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming President.
Dozens of Tomahawk missiles raining down on Syrian aircraft, an airstrip and fuel stations at the government -controlled Al-Sharyat airbase near Homs in the country’s west.
In a short statement, US President Donald Trump claimed this was the base from where a chemical attack was launched earlier this week– killing dozens of civilians in northern Syria.
He says the man behind it — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“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 suffer this horror.”
Mr Trump says the attack was vital to the national interests 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. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have failed, and failed very dramatically.”
Mr Trump then reached out to the international community to join the US in helping end the violence in Syria.
“Tonight I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism or 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.”
A short time later, Syrian state television called the strike an act of “American aggression”– which led to “losses” at the airbase.
Mr Trump had reportedly told a number of countries about the strike in advance including Australia.
US military analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling says the strike has now thrown America’s standing on the world stage into uncertainty.
“What we’re concerned about; what did it hit, was there any civilian casualties? I would be interested in that too, but what I’m more interested in is what’s going to happen tomorrow? What happens next? What kind of reaction is this going to get from the world, not just our friends but our foes, especially the Russians and the Iranians, how they’re going to act? We got a lot of forces deployed to Europe right now, that are countering Russian malign action, what’s going to happen there? There are areas where Russians and Iranians are going to take action to counter some of the things we anticipate doing.”
Mobile phone footage of this week’s chemical attack had shown dozens of civilians from Syria’s Idlib province struggling for breath and foaming at the mouth.
Many were rushed over the border to hospitals in Turkey.
Now, Turkish officials say they’ve gathered the first conclusive evidence that chemical weapons had been used in the attack.
Turkey’s justice minister, Bekir Bozda, says autopsies have been carried out on three victims who died in their hospitals.
“A representative from the World Health Organisation, representatives from the United Nations Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and forensic experts joined the autopsy. It was determined as a result of the autopsy that a chemical weapon was used. The forensic report clearly shows this. With this scientific examination it has been determined that the Syrian President has used a chemical weapon.”
But the Syrian government continues to deny it was behind any chemical attack.
Despite the mounting evidence, Syria’s key ally Russia had reaffirmed its support for President Bashar al-Assad.
In a statement– Russian president Vladimir Putin called for “a detailed and unbiased investigation” into the deaths.
Before the air strike, Russia and the US had already clashed at the United Nations Security Council over the wording of a draft resolution responding to the chemical attack.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the Security Council’s inability to agree is ‘scandalous’.
“It was a barbaric attack that must be cleared up. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime. This means we have to do everything we can to clear this up. Unfortunately there are many indications that this was carried out by the Assad regime, also the subsequent bombing of the hospital were victims were being treated. It is a scandal that no U.N. Security Council resolution materialised and those who opposed it must consider what responsibility they bear.”