The United States launched more than 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria Thursday night, President Donald Trump announced in a statement. The strikes were in retaliation for a deadly chemical weapon attack, launched by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier this week, that left at least 80 civilians dead, including 30 children.
Initial reports put the number of U.S. missiles fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea between 50 and 60. The strike was focused on a Syrian airfield near Homs and reportedly destroyed a number of airplanes and hit the runway. Officials tell NBC no people were targeted, and it’s currently unclear how many casualties resulted, if any. Russia, which has troops on the ground, was reportedly notified before the airstrikes.
Speaking from inside his Mar-a-Lago country club, President Trump called on “civilized nations” to join the United States in “seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”
“It is in this vital national security interest of the U.S. to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said.
On Tuesday, Russia denied that Assad forces were responsible for using chemical weapons on its people. Russia has a long track record of denying its own responsibility or the responsibility of its Syrian allies for atrocities committed during Syria’s civil war.
Republican Senators John McCain (Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) took a shot at the Obama administration in a joint statement released Thursday night. “Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people,” the statement said.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said in a statement that he was informed of the strike against the Assad regime after the attacks were already underway. “These military strikes against Assad’s arsenal send a clear signal that the United States will stand up for internationally accepted norms and rules against the use of chemical weapons,” Cardin said. “However, and I cannot emphasize this enough, any longer-term or larger military operation in Syria by the Trump Administration will need to be done in consultation with the Congress.”
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for action against Assad just hours before the airstrikes in an appearance at the Women’s World Summit in New York City. “I really believe that we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them,” Clinton said.
This post was updated at 9:58 PM ET.
Cover: A Syrian national flag hangs in a damaged neighbourhood in Aleppo, Syria January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki