USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017. The U.S. on Thursday fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military airbase American officials believe was used to carry out a deadly suspected chemical attack, the Pentagon confirmed. The Pentagon said initial indications are that the strike "severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at" the Shayrat Airfield. (Photo by Robert S. Price/U.S. Navy/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
On Thursday, the United States attacked a government-controlled air base in Syria, responding to a chemical weapons attack that U.S. officials blamed on Syria President Bashar al-Assad. Six people were killed in the airstrike, according to a televised statement by the Syrian's Armed Forces General Command. Talal Barazi, the governor of Homs province, told The Associated Press that seven others were wounded.
A Syrian opposition monitor said the attack killed four soldiers, including a general. The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than a dozen hangars, a fuel depot and an air defense base were damaged.
The strike took place at 8:40 p.m. ET (3:40 a.m. local time), CNN reported. It targeted aircraft, aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and "the things that make the airfield operate," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters. The missiles were launched from warships in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Russia reacts: The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the U.S. strike is an "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law.” Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Friday's statement carried by Russian news agencies that Putin believes that the U.S. has dealt the strikes under "far-fetched pretext.” Earlier, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of Russia’s foreign affairs committee in the Kremlin-controlled upper house of parliament, said on his Facebook page that a U.S.-Russian anti-terror coalition has been “put to rest without even being born.”
Trump addresses nation: President Donald Trump said that “it is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. The president said that Assad’s attack on Tuesday “choked out the lives of innocent men, women and children,” causing them to suffer “a slow and brutal death.” “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in ending the bloodshed in Syria,” Trump said. Read the full transcript of Trump’s speech here.
Syria protests action: Syria criticized the attack, calling it an “aggression” that led to “losses.” Rebel forces welcomed the U.S. attack. The Syrian Coalition said it puts an end to an age of "impunity" and should be just the beginning.
Saudis, Israelis laud move: Saudi Arabia called Trump’s move a “courageous decision.” The state-run Saudi Press said Friday blamed Assad’s government for the attack, saying that the missile launch was the right response to “the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it.” Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., said the U.S. sent a "significant message" to the region and beyond. He called it “a moral decision that delivered a triple message.”
British support: The British government said it “fully supports” the U.S. action, a Downing Street spokesman told Reuters.
French disconnection: French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen says Trump is trying to be the "world's policeman" and is suggesting that it could backfire. Le Pen has expressed support for Assad in the past, and said on France-2 television Friday that she was "surprised" by Trump's sudden move. Le Pen said that Trump indicated he would not make the U.S. "the world's policeman, and that's exactly what he did yesterday." She warned that past international interventions in Iraq and Libya have led to rising Islamic extremism.
Asian stock market reaction: The price of bonds, the yen and gold rose in Asia on Friday and stocks slipped in the wake of the attack, Reuters reported. The American dollar dropped as much as 0.6 percent, while gold and oil prices rallied. Any early panic was quelled later in the day after a U.S. official called the attack a “one-off,” with no plans for escalation.
Why they are fighting in Syria: For the past six years, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has fought rebel forces determined to take down his regime. The fighting, which began in March 2011 in Deraa, moved to the Aleppo area in 2012.