The United States on April 6 launched a Tomahawk cruise missile strike against al-Shayrat airfield near Homs, Syria.
US President Donald Trump said the airfield was selected because it was used to launch a chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this week.
A US defense official said plans had been drawn up on April 5, the day after the chemical attack, and presented to Trump hours before he launched the missile strikes.
Syria, Russia and Iran have condemned the strikes, which the Syrian government said killed nine people, including four children, in a neighboring village.
Early Friday, Moscow suspended the deconfliction channel between the Russian and US forces in Syria. The channel, established in October, was set up to avoid accidents between US and Russian pilots operating in the country.
US military officials denied the channel had been suspended, telling reporters on Friday morning that the communications were still open. “We have had discussions with the Russians after the attack to confirm the [channel] is still open,” an defense official said. “They confirmed that it is.”
Russian defense ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that Moscow had informed the Pentagon of its decision through military-diplomatic channels and summoned the US military attache.
The channel will be suspended at midnight on April 8, Konashenkov said.
The Syrian Ambassador to Russia, Riyad Haddad, said Damascus will appeal to the UN Security Council.
In a statement released over night, the Pentagon said US forces launched 59 Tomahawk missiles from the USS Porter and USS Ross in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
“At the direction of the president, US forces conducted a cruise missile strike against a Syrian Air Force airfield today at about 8:40 p.m. EDT (4:40 a.m., April 7, in Syria). The strike targeted Shayrat Airfield in Homs governorate, and were in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun, which killed and injured hundreds of innocent Syrian people, including women and children.”
“The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. A total of 59 TLAMs targeted 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.
“The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The US intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4. The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.
“Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. US military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located 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. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.
Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis
Russia’s defense ministry said on Friday that only 23 of the 59 missiles reached the base. Photos shared on social media showed extensive damage to the base, as well as a number of claimed unexploded ordnance both at Al-Shayrat and in surrounding areas.
US defense officials said all missiles had hit their intended targets and the strikes destroyed Syrian aircraft as well as surface-to-air missiles.
Statement by President Donald J Trump
“On Tuesday Syrian President Bashar al Assad launched a horrible chemical 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 at this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.”
“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.”
“Numerous previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all found 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.
“Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syrian and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”
US President Donald Trump