The United States has launched on Friday morning dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria in response to this week’s alleged chemical attack that it has blamed on the Syrian government, the pentagon announced.
The US military launched about 60 Tomahawk missiles against several targets on al-Shayrat air base 38 kilometers southeast of the city of Homs. They were reportedly fired from the USS Ross and USS Porter, Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The strikes targeted aircraft and infrastructure, including the runway, but not people, US officials told NBC. But a Syrian military source was quoted by state TV as saying that the US missile strike has “led to losses.”
Syrian military personnel, as well as equipment, were evacuated from the airfield in prior to the late Thursday US missile attack, media report. The missile strike damaged runways, towers and traffic control buildings at the airbase, but personnel had been evacuated and equipment was moved ahead of the strike, ABC said on Friday citing eyewitness reports.
Governor of Homs Province Talal al-Barazi said that the Shayrat Airfield plays a key role in supporting Syrian government forces in their fight against ISIL terrorists.
“The Syrian army and armed forces are fighting terrorism, especially in the east of Homs. And recently significant progress has been reached, gas fields have been liberated as well as the city of Palmyra and its surroundings. This base to the east of Homs plays a key role in supporting military operations against ISIL, particularly in the eastern part of Homs,” al-Barazi said in a phone interview.
“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. “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.
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.
US Congressman Tulsi Gabbard said that Trump’s decision to conduct the missile strike against a Syrian airfield was a mistake that will escalate tensions with Russia and lead to more civilian casualties. “This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia — which could lead to nuclear war,” Gabbard stressed.
Russia will demand urgent UN Security Council meeting after US missile strike at an airbase in Syria, Victor Ozerov, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security, told Sputnik.
“Russia will first of all demand an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. This can be regarded as an act of aggression on the part of the US against a UN state,” Ozerov said.
“After this incident the already clouded relations with the US will somewhat worsen,” Ozerov told Sputnik, adding that the missile attack will likely be “a very bad example for the armed opposition in Syria, which could put under question the agreements reached with the opposition, including in Geneva.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement after the US attack that there were no discussions or prior contacts between the United States and Moscow ahead of the missile strike on the Syrian base.