The US military launched 59 Tomahawk missiles from two US Navy destroyers on Friday (April 7) at a Syrian airfield and targets included aircraft and air defense systems, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Military officials said two US warships, the USS Ross and the USS Porter in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea fired 59 tomahawk missiles intended for a single target – Al-Sharyat in Homs Province in western Syria, the airfield from which the United States believes the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad fired the banned weapons.
This is the first direct U.S. assault on the government of Bashar al-Assad in six years of civil war.
Syrian state television broadcast coverage from the targeted area, showing military bunkers and emergency services vehicles at the scene.
The Syrian army said the US attack killed six people at its air base near the city of Homs. It called the attack “blatant aggression” and said it made the United States a “partner” of “terrorist groups” including Islamic State.
The US attack has drawn both criticism and support with strikes in Syria.
Western allies of the United States spoke out in support of the decision to launch the strikes. Several countries said they were notified in advance, but none had been asked to take part.
Russian Foreign Ministry quickly denounced the US missile strikes on Syria, saying it had further damaged ties between Moscow and Washington.
Spokesperson for the ministry, Maria Zakharova, said Washington had “twisted” events around the deadly chemical attack in Idlib earlier in the week as a “pretext” to demonstrate force in Syria.
“Without bothering to understand what’s happened, the United States resorted to demonstration of force, to military confrontation with a country that is fighting international terrorism,” said Zakharova, warning the strikes threatened international security.
A United Nations spokesman on Friday, however, has told a news briefing in Geneva that it could not yet comment on the decision by US President Donald Trump to launch missile strikes on a Syrian airbase.
The sharp escalation of Washington’s military engagement in the Syrian war came after a chemical attack – which the West says was carried out by Damascus – killed dozens of people in an area held by rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government strongly denies responsibility for the chemical attack.
On Friday, a warplane hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun where Tuesday’s chemical attack took place. An activist working at an air raid warning service in opposition areas told Reuters it caused only material damage.
World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the Idlib health directorate reported 84 people killed and 546 injured, 74 of which have been transferred to Turkey to a hospital in the Hatay region.
The swift action is likely to be interpreted not only as a signal to Russia, but also to other countries such as North Korea, China and Iran where Trump has faced foreign policy tests early in his presidency
The talks have long been stalled and the war, which is in its seventh year, has killed more than 400,000 people, displaced millions inside Syria and set off a wave of refugees seeking shelter in neighbouring countries as well as the EU.