The United States, along with Britain and France, just bombed Syria. It’s the second time the US has waded into the country’s seven-year conflict in response to a chemical weapons attack.
The allies hit three targets — including in the capital of Damascus — all related to Syria’s chemical program with around 100 missiles: a research center, a storage facility, an equipment facility and command post. Damascus residents said they awoke to explosions. The strikes came from coalition cruise-missile-equipped ships and warplanes.
“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” President Donald Trump said from the White House on Friday night.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the scale of the attacks was larger than the one last year, which only struck one Syrian airbase. “This time with our allies, we have struck harder,” Mattis said. “Together we have sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack.”
“Right now, this is a one-time shot,” Mattis added, “designed to set back the Syrian war machine’s ability to produce chemical weapons.” Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said they tried not to hit Russian troops stationed in Syria, which might have ignited a larger conflict.
No American pilots were killed, according to the Pentagon; the number of Syrian and other casualties is not yet known. Russia has warned of “consequences” after the attacks.
The strikes come just six days after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against locals outside Damascus, killing at least 42 adults and children. Doctors and activists in Syria have circulated pictures showing men, women, and children with foam coming out of their mouths and noses, which doctors said meant they were exposed to a nerve agent.
The morning after the April 7 chemical attack, Trump said Assad and those that support him — especially Russia and Iran — would pay a “big price” for their actions. He spent the next few days discussing how to respond with his top advisers as well as foreign leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Theresa May. May has authorized strikes on Syria: “The fact of this attack should surprise no-one,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Trump has responded to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. He ordered a similar strike almost exactly a year ago in response to a regime-ordered chemical weapons attack in rebel-held northern Syria. The United States shot 59 Tomahawk missiles at the al-Shayrat airbase, where Assad had launched the chemical attack on April 4, 2017, that killed more than 80 people.