The United States Ship Ross launches tomahawk missiles from the Mediterranean Sea early Friday morning. Photo: US Navy
The General Command of the Syrian Armed Forces called the US missile attacks in Syria's central region "aggressive," adding they resulted in the deaths of six people, according to Syrian media..
“At 3:42 am today, the United States of America committed a blatant act of aggression targeting one of our air bases in the Central Region with a number of missiles, leaving 6 people martyred and a number of others injured and causing huge material damage,” SANA news reported, quoting a statement from the Syrian Army's Command.
SANA summarized the statement saying the US attack "stresses the continued wrong strategy of the US and undermines the operation of fighting terrorism carried out by the Syrian Arab Army."
The attack "violates all international laws and conventions and aims at affecting the capabilities of the Syrian army in its fight against terrorism," the Command stressed, according to SANA.
Turkey's presidency has called for a no-fly zone in Syria
Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin released a statement on Friday morning re-iterating his country's praise of the US missile strikes and recommending the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria.
"A no-flight zone and safe haven should be realized urgently in order to prevent similar massacres," the statement read.
"We view the US missile strike carried out this morning against Shayrat air base in Homs, Syria as a positive response against the war crimes of Assad," it added.
Turkey 'welcomes' US strikes against Syrian air base
Numan Kurtulmus, Turkey's deputy prime minister, came out in clear support of the US decision to strike the Syrian air base.
“We welcome this,” he said to reporters in Istanbul on Friday morning. “But the international community should continue their clear stance against this barbarism of Assad regime until it becomes unable to hurt people."
Turkey, Iran and Russia have been attempting over the past few months in the Kazakh capital of Astana to broker a ceasefire to the six-year-long civil war.
“The peace process should be accelerated. Not an imposed peace but a fair peace that could be accepted by all parts of the society that suffered the brutality," Kurtulmus added.
Turkey sent 30 ambulances from its province of Hatay to Idlib after Tuesday's attacks.
“[The] Assad regime should be punished in international field.”
Additionally, Turkey provided treatment to around 60 survivors of the attack at state, university and private hospitals.
Syrians and Americans gathered in front of the White House before the strikes
Demonstrators gathered Friday night in front of the White House ahead of US President Donald Trump's orders to launch strikes from a ship in the Mediterranean targeting the Syrian military airbase.
Iran's foreign ministry strongly condemned the US missile attack
Iran's foreign ministry was reported by IRNA news as saying that Iran has been the biggest victim of chemical weapons, and that unilateral US action in Syria undermines international law.
"Tehran considers this excuse for unilateral action as dangerous, destructive and violation of fundemental principles of international law," Iranian FM spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.
"Iran believes that such measure under the pretext of alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun which its timing, perpetrators and beneficiaries are all suspected would not only complicate the situation in Syria but in the entire region," Qasemi added.
Iran and Russia have been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's primary backers.
A neighborhood in Khan Sheikhaun was attacked with material that is likely to result from the use of gases that caused suffocation associated with fainting, vomiting, nasal discharge, and other symptoms, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed on Tuesday.
Putin sees the strikes as attempt to divert the attention of the international community
After the strikes, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strikes violated standards of international law.
"President Putin considers the US strikes against Syria an aggression against a sovereign country violating the norms of international law, and under a trumped-up pretext at that," Russia's TASS news agency reported Dmitry Peskov as saying.
"Putin also sees the strikes on Syria by the US as an attempt to divert the attention of the international community from numerous civilians casualties in Iraq," Peskov added.
The launch occurred just hours after the United Nations security council met without issuing a resolution.
"An investigation team should be formed to investigate what's happend at Khan Sheikhoun," a Russian diplomat said after last night's meeting of the UN Security Council just hours prior to the launch.
He questioned the credibility of the reports from Khan Sheikhoun.
Russia's defense ministry had blamed the attack on Syrian aviation striking a storage facility that was being used to produce projectiles toxic agents.
Video: US Navy
The missiles hit at 3:45 Friday morning in Syria
By Associated Press
PALM BEACH, Florida — The United States struck a Syrian air base with a barrage of cruise missiles Thursday night in fiery retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians. President Donald Trump cast the US assault as vital to deter future use of poison gas and called on other nations to join in seeking "to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria."
It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump's most dramatic military order since becoming president just over two months ago. The strikes also risk thrusting the US deeper into an intractable conflict that his predecessor spent years trying to avoid.
Announcing the assault from his Florida resort, Trump said there was no doubt Syrian President Bashar Assad was responsible for the chemical attack, which he said employed banned gases and killed dozens.
"Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children," Trump declared.
The US strikes -59 missiles launched from the USS Ross and USS Porter - hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base in central Syria, where US officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off. The US missiles hit at 8:45 p.m. in Washington, 3:45 Friday morning in Syria. The missiles targeted the base's airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.
The attack killed some Syrians and wounded others, Talal Barazi, the governor of Syria's Homs province, told The Associated Press. He didn't give precise numbers.
Trump ordered the strikes without approval from Congress or the backing of the United Nations. US officials said he had the right to use force to defend national interests and to protect civilians from atrocities.
Syrian state TV reported a US missile attack on a number of military targets and called the attack an "aggression."
The US assault marked a striking reversal for Trump, who warned as a candidate against the US being pulled into the Syrian civil war that began six years ago. But the president appeared moved by the photos of children killed in the chemical attack, calling it a "disgrace to humanity" that crossed "a lot of lines."
US officials placed some of the blame on Russia, one of Syria's most important benefactors. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Florida with Trump, said Moscow had failed in living up to a 2013 agreement that was intended to strip Syria of its chemical weapons stockpiles.
"Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of the agreement," Tillerson said.
The US Tomahawk missiles, fired from warships in the Mediterranean Sea, targeted an air base in retaliation for the attack that America believes Syrian government aircraft launched with the nerve agent sarin mixed with chlorine gas. The president did not announce the attacks in advance, though he and other national security officials ratcheted up their warnings to the Syrian government throughout the day Thursday.
The strike came as Trump was hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping in meetings focused in part on another pressing US security dilemma: North Korea's nuclear program. Trump's actions in Syria could signal to China that the new president isn't afraid of unilateral military steps, even if key nations like China are standing in the way.
"This clearly indicates the president is willing to take decisive action when called for," Tillerson said.
Trump has advocated greater counterterrorism cooperation with Russia, Assad's most powerful military backer. Just last week, the Trump administration signaled the US was no longer interested in trying to push Assad from power over his direction of a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and led to the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
US officials portrayed the strikes as an appropriate, measured response and said they did not signal a broader shift in the Trump administration's approach to the Syrian conflict.
"The intent was to deter the regime from doing this again," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the Pentagon spokesman. "It will be the regime's choice if there's any more, and it will be based upon their conduct going forward."
Still, the assault risks plunging America into the middle of Syria's conflict, complicating the safety of the hundreds of US forces fighting a separate campaign against ISIS in the north of the country. If Assad's military persists in further gas attacks, the Trump administration might logically pursue increased retaliation.
Russia and Iran, Assad's allies, pose other problems. Russian military personnel and aircraft are embedded with Syria's, and Iranian troops and paramilitary forces are also on the ground helping Assad fight the array of opposition groups hoping to topple him.
Before the strikes, US military officials said they informed their Russian counterparts of the impending attack. The goal was to avoid any accident involving Russian forces.
Nevertheless, Russia's Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the "shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise."
The US also notified its partner countries in the region prior to launching the strikes.
Trump's decision to attack Syria came three-and-a-half years after President Barack Obama threatened Assad with military action after an earlier chemical weapons attack killed hundreds outside Damascus. Obama had declared the use of such weapons a "red line." At the time, several American ships in the Mediterranean were poised to launch missiles, only for Obama to abruptly pull back after key US ally Britain and the US Congress balked at his plan.
He opted instead for the Russian-backed plan that was supposed to remove and eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.
The world learned of the chemical attack earlier in the week in footage that showed people dying in the streets and bodies of children stacked in piles. The international outcry fueled an emotional response from Trump, who appeared to abandon his much-touted "America First" vision for a stance of humanitarian intervention, akin to that of previous American leaders.
Trump seemed to rapidly reconsider his feelings about Assad, saying: "He's there and I guess he's running things, so something should happen."
The show of force in Syria raises legal questions. It's unclear what authority Trump is relying on to attack another government. When Obama intervened in Libya in 2011, he used a U.N. Security Council mandate and NATO's overall leadership of the mission to argue that he had legal authority - arguments many Republicans opposed. Trump can't rely on either justification here.
Unclear also is whether Trump is adopting any broader effort to combat Assad. Under Obama, the United States largely pulled back from its support for so-called "moderate" rebels when Russia's military intervention in September 2015 led them to suffer a series of battlefield defeats. Instead, Obama sought to work with Russia on a negotiated transition.
Trump and his top aides had acknowledged in recent days the "reality" of Assad being in power, saying his ouster was no longer a priority. But the chemical weapons attack seemed to spur a rethink. In Florida on Thursday, Tillerson said of Assad, "There's no role for him to govern the Syrian people."