The US has confirmed that it launched about 59 Tomahawk missiles in Syria targeting the Shayrat Airfield and the military installations close by. The strike came as a response to the chemical attack launched by government forces that killed roughly 100 people in Northwestern Syria. The missiles were launched from two US destroyers – The USS Porter and the USS Ross. This is the first strike by the new US administration in Syria targeting the Assad regime. US President Donald Trump had earlier shown a lot of resistance to the idea of getting involved militarily in the conflict in Syria. However, recently the President made it clear that it was in the best interest of US national security to prevent further use of chemical weapons. Addressing reporters after the cruise missile strikes, President Trump said that “No child of God deserved to suffer the horrors of victims affected by the chemical attack” and added that “It was important for the US to prevent and deter such deadly use of chemical weapons in the future.”
Reports coming from Homs, a city about 100 miles North of Damascus, said that the Tomahawk strikes killed at least five people and injured seven others. According to autopsies done on the victims of the chemical attack, Sarin gas was used. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that there was no longer any doubt whatsoever that the attack was carried out by the Assad forces. However, the Syrian army has denied these allegations and had the same sentiments backed by Russia. A statement from the Russian and Syrian forces said that this was a conventional airstrike that accidently hit a cache of chemical weapons stacked by rebel fighters in the area.
The US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told CNN that efforts were made to ensure the strikes would not hit what appeared to be chemical gas weapons in the airfield. In addition to this, Washington confirmed that the airfield had been clearly vetted to ensure that there was no possibility of civilian causalities. Russia has condemned the attack saying that it will have negative consequences on US and Russian cooperation in Syria. Russian Deputy Envoy to the UN said on Thursday that there could be more consequences if such attacks continue to occur in Syria. Russia has played a key role in helping Assad retake key cities that were under rebel control.
The Kremlin has been involved in the conflict in Syria since October 2015 and this involvement has turned the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the attack an act of aggression against a sovereign country. However, the airstrike has also received bi-partisan backing from both house and senate republicans as well as democrats. This was definitely a reminder that the US will not sit back and watch as atrocities continue in Syria. However, the question still remains of what exactly the US long-term strategy on Syria and Russia should be.