BREAKING – United States launches missile strikes on Syria
The US has attacked a Syrian air base with 59 missiles in retaliation for this week’s chemical weapons attack in Idlib, US officials say.
The Tomahawk missiles were fired from two warships – the USS Porter and USS Ross – in the Mediterranean Sea, targeting the government-controlled Shayrat airfield in Homs.
The missiles struck their targets, which also included Syrian aircraft and fuel stations, at 3.45am on Friday local time.
Syrian state TV described the US missile attack on Friday morning as “American aggression”, with a Syrian military source quoted as saying the strike had “led to losses”.
The governor of Homs province Talal Barazi said the US strikes served the goals of “armed terrorist groups” and Islamic State, adding that Syrian leadership and policy “will not change”.
It comes days after at least 80 people, many of them children, were killed in a poison gas attack that the US has blamed on Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
In an address to the nation, US President Donald Trump said he had ordered a “targeted military strike on an airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched”.
Video: Trump: ‘Assad chemical attack terrible’
He described the strike on Syria as being in the “vital national security interests of the US to prevent and deter the spread and use of chemical weapons”.
“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically.
“As a result the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise, threatening the US and its allies.”
Mr Trump had earlier described Syria’s chemical attack attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, as “one of the truly egregious crimes” that “shouldn’t have happened and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen”.
Video: Graphic content: Syrian father mourns his dead baby twins
The Syrian government has denied being behind that attack and the Russian government had warned against apportioning blame until an investigation had been carried out.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the US strikes were “proportionate” and showed that Mr Trump was willing to act when other countries “cross the line”.
He also blamed Russia for failing to carry out a 2013 agreement to secure Syria’s chemical weapons, saying Moscow had been either “complicit or incompetent”.
The strikes are Mr Trump’s most dramatic military order since taking office in January.
Mr Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had threatened to attack Assad’s forces for previous chemical weapons attacks but never went ahead.
Sky’s US Correspondent Cordelia Lynch said: “This is months after Donald Trump said he wouldn’t intervene in Middle Eastern wars, he didn’t want to get involved in the affairs of other nations.
“It is very unclear at this stage what the potential consequences will be.”
Mr Trump’s intervention in Syria’s six-year-old civil war raises the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main military allies.
Russia, for example, has backed Syria since September 2015, also using its veto power in the UN Security Council on several occasions to prevent sanctions against Damascus.
The US informed Russian forces ahead of its attack on Syria and did not target sections of the base where they were believed to be present.