UPDATE — 2:07 p.m. EDT: U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, doubled down on comments from Wednesday, saying Friday that America “is prepared to do more” in response to Syria’s chemical weapons attack against civilians.
“Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it,” Haley said. “He thought he could get away with it because he knew Russia had his back. That changed last night.”
The former South Carolina governor also said that Russia “bears considerable responsibility”, for Assad’s war crimes.
“It is time for all civilized nations to stop the horrors that are taking place in Syria and demand a political solution,” she concluded.
Responding to what he described as a “very barbaric” attack, which “choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children,” President Trump ordered a missile attack on a Syrian military instillation suspected of basing aircraft which allegedly used chemical nerve agents against Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Governorate on Tuesday.
Russia and Syria have denounced the missile attack; in response, the Kremlin has suspended the military coordination both countries have previously shared to forestall catastrophe over Syrian skies.
In the first direct assault against the Assad government, President Trump ordered U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles against the Shayrat airfield on Thursday evening.
Speaking from his home in Palm Beach, Fla., in the midst of meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump called for an international coalition to stand up against the atrocities perpetrated by the Syrian government.
“Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types,” he said.
“We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. . . . And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.”
So far, political leaders in the UK, Canada, Israel, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Poland, Australia, UAE and Japan have signaled support for the U.S. strike.
Located in Shayrat, Homs Governorate, the missile attack targeted Syrian Arab Air Force assets including “aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars,” according to a press release from the U.S. Central Command.
U.S. Central Command added it had take every precaution necessary to minimize inflicting casualty on Russian or Syrian personnel and revealed it had informed the Russian military in advance of the attack.
Offering their own analysis of the attack, a statement released by the Russian Ministry of Defense described minor damage to military structures; the loss of six Syrian aircraft; and only 23 of 59 Tomahawk missiles had struck Shayrat airfield.
“According to Russian means of objective control, only 23 missiles have reached the Syrian airbase. The place of the fall of the remaining 36 cruise missiles is unknown,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov.
Syrian state-owned television SANA condemned the attack, saying it only strengthens rebel groups opposed to Bashar al-Assad’s rule and was carried out “without the full facts (of the Khan Sheikhoun matter) being disclosed.”
Opposition group, Syrian National Coalition, praised the missile launch.
Blasting the attack as a blatant violation of the 2015 memorandum on operations security, Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuked the White House for an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected as to the date of the U.S. missile launch.
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