The United States has fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield in response to this week’s alleged chemical attack in the Arab country that it has blamed on the government, according to multiple media reports.
The US military launched on Friday morning about 60 Tomahawk missiles against several targets on al-Shayrat air base in Homs province in western Syria.
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” US President Donald Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The missiles were reportedly fired from the USS Ross and USS Porter, Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
“These missiles targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage areas, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.
A Syrian military source was quoted by state TV as saying that the US missile strike on the Syrian air base has “led to losses.”
Trump ordered the strike just a day after he pointed the finger at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the deadly attack which killed at least 70 people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib.
The foreign-sponsored militants active in the area and some Western officials blamed the attack on the Syrian military whereas Damascus rejected the allegation, insisting it “has never used them [chemical weapons], anytime, anywhere, and will not do so in the future.”
“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said.
“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons,” he stated without providing a shred of evidence to back his claim.
“Assad chokes out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump continued. “It was a slow and brutal death for so many, even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”
The United States and its allies have repeatedly used chemical weapons as a pretext to pressure the Syrian government. Damascus volunteered to destroy its chemical stockpile in 2014 following a poisonous attack outside the capital.
The allegations of chemical arms use are still made against Syria even as the dismantling of the country’s entire stockpile of chemical weapons as well as relevant production facilities was supervised by the UN.
Foreign-backed militants have repeatedly used chemical weapons against Syrian troops, some of which have been verified by UN officials, but the attacks have often been ignored by Western governments.
In December 2015, a cousin of former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi said that chemical weapons used in Ghouta which were blamed on the Syrian government were in fact stolen from Libya and later smuggled into Syria via Turkey.
‘Trump doesn’t need approval of Congress to strike Syria’
On Thursday, hawkish Republican Senator John McCain said Trump does not need to ask for the approval of lawmakers if he wanted to strike Syria, but still Congress should pass a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).
“We need an Authorization for Use of Military Force. We got to update it, we got to make it realistic and we got to have Congress, the representatives of the American people, involved in some of these decisions,” McCain said during an interview.
“I am going to work with Sen. Tim Kaine [D-Va.] and others to try to come up with one,” he added.