Washington, Ankara- US President Donald Trump ordered a massive military strike on a Syrian air base Thursday, in retaliation for a “barbaric” chemical attack he blamed on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
In a brief televised address delivered hours after the UN Security Council failed to agree on a probe into the attack, Trump confirmed the first American targeted strike against Assad’s regime.
Declaring it in America’s “vital national security interest” to prevent the spread of deadly chemical weapons, Trump accused Assad of a “very barbaric attack” in which “even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered.”
The US fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat Airfield at 8:40 pm Eastern Time (0040 GMT), according to officials.
The strike targeted radars, aircraft, air defense systems and other logistical components at the military base south of Homs in central Syria, from where Washington believes Tuesday’s deadly strike on a rebel-held town in Syria’s Idlib province was launched.
The Syrian armed forces said six people were killed and serious damage was caused by the strike.
“At 3:42 am (0042 GMT) the United States carried out a flagrant aggression with missiles against one of our airbases in the central region, killing six people and wounding a number of others, and causing significant damage,” a spokesman said, reading from a statement.
He did not specify whether the casualties were civilian or military, and gave no further details on the damage caused by the attack.
A US high-ranking official had announced on Thursday that Trump was studying several military options in retaliation for the attack by the Syrian regime.
The official said the Department of Defense suggested the options following a request from the White House.
The gas attack on the Idlib town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people, including many children.
On Thursday, Trump said he had not talked with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin since last Tuesday’s attack on the Syrian town. “At some point, I may,” he told the press, aboard Air Force One en route to West Palm Beach in Florida.
“I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. And he’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so something should happen,” the US president added.
For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would support a US military attack in Syria.
Speaking in a live television interview on Thursday evening, Erdogan said: “If something [concrete] is to be done [over Idlib attack], we, as Turkey, are ready to do our part.”
In a related development, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that Russia should “consider carefully” its continued support for the Syrian regime.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson at the British foreign ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat that Britain, France and the US were currently discussing a revised version of the draft resolution that the three countries had earlier presented to the Security Council to condemn the suspected chemical attack and demand a full investigation under Article 7.
Moscow had alluded it would veto the Western-backed draft.