US Strikes Syrian Regime with Cruise Missiles to Retaliate for Chemical Weapons Attack

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile while conducting naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price

  • US has stricken the Assad regime in response to Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Idlib province.
  • 59 cruise missiles were fired from US destroyers in the Mediterranean.
  • Attack targeted Syrian regime air base from where the chemical weapons attack was launched, according to US intelligence.
  • US had notified Russia in advance about the strike on its ally Assad through the US-Russian deconfliction line.
  • Missile strike has reduced the Syrian regime’s ability to deliver chemical weapons, the Pentagon says.

The United States has launched a missile strike at a military air base of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to what has been reported as a chemical weapons attack by regime forces on rebel-held territory in Idlib province, Northwest Syria.

The US missile strike against the Assad regime was launched late on Thursday (early Friday morning in Syria), just days after the reported attack with chemical weapons killed dozens of civilians, including many children, in Khan Sheikhun, Idlib province, in Northwest Syria.

The chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Khan Sheikhun was reported by activists, medical volunteers, and the London-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights who posted photos and videos online allegedly showing its aftermath

This appears to have been the sixth known case of usage of banned chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War, which has been raging on since 2011. Syria’s Idlib province is largely controlled by an alliance of rebel factions and the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

Russia has denied striking the Khan Sheikhun area, and the Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons, blaming their use on “terrorists”. Russia’s Defense Ministry has alleged that the fatalities in Khan Sheikhun may have resulted from the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bombing a rebel-controlled depot for chemical arms.

The Russian allegations have been dismissed by the United States, with US President Donald Trump calling the Syrian chemical weapons attack “an affront to humanity”. He has criticized his predecessor Barack Obama for having failed to enforce the “red line” he drew on Assad’s use of chemical weapons four years ago.

As Russia had threatened to veto a draft UN Security Council resolution proposed by the US, UK, and France to investigate the chemical weapons attack, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the US might be “compelled to take our own action”.

The US strike on the Assad regime comes as US President Trump is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida for their first summit meeting.

‘Proportional Response to Heinous Act’

The US launched 59 cruise missiles at the Shayrat Airfield in Homs province in Western Syria at 8:40 pm EDT on Thursday (04:40 Syrian time (01:40 GMT) on Friday), the US Department of Defense announced.

“The United States fired Tomahawk missiles into Syria today in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people,“ the Pentagon said, referring to Assad as “the Syrian dictator”.

The missile strike ordered by President Donald Trump targeted the Al-Shayrat Air Base because it was from this base that the chemical attack on Syria’s Idlib province was launched.

US President Donald Trump elaborated on the reasons for the US missile strike against the government of the Syrian President Assad saying “Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.”

Shortly after the President’s address, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis issued a statement providing details of the strike.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile while conducting naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price

The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs), launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Davis said in his statement.

A total of 59 TLAMs targeted Syrian regime’s aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.

“As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.  Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield,” Davis said.

“[The strike is] a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act,” the Pentagon spokesman said, noting that Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces.

The US intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the April 4 chemical weapons attack, he added, and the strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.

The Pentagon spokesman also announced that Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line, and US military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel at the airfield.

“We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons,“ Davis said.

“The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated,” he added.

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