President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike against Syria on Thursday as a response to a sarin gas attack days earlier that killed 27 and injured 107. The 59 Tomahawk missiles targeted the base that housed the aircraft involved in the chemical attack. It was reported that casualties were low.
The missiles were the first military action taken directly against Syria by the U.S. since its civil war began six years ago. The escalation could be considered an act of war by the Syrian government.
Russia disapproved of the action, calling it an aggressive act. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the action was “short-sighted” and “disgraceful.” President Trump defended the missile strike, stating that it was necessary for U.S. security and a deterrent against chemical weapons use. He also said Syria used chemical weapons that were banned, which is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and an affront to the U.N. Security Council. Trump added that years of trying to modify Assad’s behavior were unsuccessful.
The president’s move against Syria contrasted sharply with the opposition to the idea that he expressed during his campaign. Those who work closely with Trump have said he was saddened and deeply moved by the disturbing images released after the chemical attack, and that led to his change of mind.
The missiles were launched from carriers in the Mediterranean Sea. The strike was timed when the base was quiet and targeted defense systems, shelters, fuel and other airfield operations. The Pentagon claimed the missiles caused substantial damage and reduced Syria’s ability use chemical weapons.
According to CNN, an unidentified official said that the intended targets were either severely damaged or completely destroyed. The official admitted that his statement was based on an early assessment, and a more in-depth report would be made later on. He also said 23 missiles were launched from the U.S.S. Porter and 36 from the U.S.S. Ross.
Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, said the missile strike did not change the country’s position in regard to Syria. He also said that President Trump proved he is willing to move against countries that cross lines and commit despicable acts like chemical attacks. Tillerson concluded by saying the U.S. strike was both appropriate and proportionate.
Washington lawmakers generally backed President Trump’s action but did caution him about making military strikes and possibly starting wars without congressional input.
The lengthy civil conflict in Syria has resulted in 400,000 deaths and the exodus of more than five million people. The U.N. estimates that more than six million Syrians are currently displaced within the country.