Syrian Base Hit by US Tomahawk Missiles
US Attack in Retaliation for Syrian Chemical Strikes
The United States Navy fired Tomahawk missiles into Syria early Friday, April 7, in retaliation for the regime of Bashar al-Assad using banned chemical weapons to attack his own people.
Late Thrusday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters:
We have a very high level of confidence that the attacks were carried out under aircraft under the direction of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. We have very high confidence that the attacks involved the use of sarin nerve gas.
Syrian Denial in Face of Evidence
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said his country did not use chemical weapons during airstrikes on Khan Sheikhoun. He insisted they would never be used, “even against terrorists.”
But Dr. Annie Sparrow, a public health specialist and a critical-care pediatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who has carried out many studies on Syria, told VOA Turkish service that a “chemical cocktail” was used on the town.
President Trump Orders Strike
President Donald J. Trump ordered the attack on Al-Shayrat Air Base, the base from which the chemical attack on Syria’s Idlib province was launched. The missiles were launched from U.S. Navy ships in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The attack is in retaliation for the Syrian dictator for using banned nerve agents in the April 4 attack.
In a statement to the American people, Trump said:
Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
Syria Violated Chemical Weapons Convention
Trump ordered the targeted military strike on the airfield that launched the attack. No one disputes that Syria used banned chemical weapons of the people of Idlib, he said, adding that this is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria also ignored United Nations Security Council resolutions. Trump continued:
It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.
Trump called on all civilized nations to join the United States in seeking an end to the slaughter in Syria, and to end the threat terrorism poses in the blighted nation.
USS Porter and USS Ross Launch 59 Tomahawks
Shortly after the president’s address, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis issued a statement providing details of the strike. It took place at about 8:40 p.m. EDT — 4:40 a.m. April 7 in Syria, he said. He added that:
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.
The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, or 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 aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.
Al-Shayrat Air Base Used to Store Chemical Weapons
The strike was “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 U.S. 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. Davis:
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. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.
Russians Notified in Advance of Strike
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line, Davis said, and U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel at the airfield.
Syrian state TV called the U.S. strike an act of “aggression.” Syria’s ally Iran also condemned the U.S. military action. While a Turkish-based Syrian opposition group, the Syrian Coalition, welcomed the U.S. attack, saying it puts an end to an age of “impunity” and said the military action should continue.
Early Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the attack was “in violation of international law,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement. U.S. officials said they were not in communication with the Russian government before the airstrike.
Russia said it would seek an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the Syria attack.
Photo: The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)