by KRISTINA WONG
WASHINGTON –President Trump has ordered cruise missile strikes against a Syrian regime military airbase, a defense official said late Thursday.
A U.S. official said “more than 50” Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched at the airbase, located in Western Syria. That base, called Shayrat, was where the U.S. believes the Assad regime carried out a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians this week that killed at least 70 people.
The strikes were carried out from two U.S. destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, the official said. The attack occurred between 8 and 9 p.m. ET, according to CNN.
Trump had hinted on Wednesday that he would take action against the chemical weapons attack during a Rose Garden briefing with the King of Jordan.
The U.S. military has not yet completed a battle damage assessment, the official said.
He said the attack had crossed “many, many lines, beyond a red line — many, many lines.”
“That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact,” Trump had said. “That was a horrible, horrible thing, and I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.”
It was reported earlier in the day that Trump was considering military options against the Syrian regime.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called on the president to come to Congress to obtain congressional authorization for military action in Syria.
“While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the US was not attacked,” he said in a statement.
“The President needs congressional authorization for military action and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate on our role. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer and Syria will be no different. – Senator Rand Paul
Meanwhile, Republican defense hawks praised the airstrikes.
“Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action,” said Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“I think it was an important step,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on CNN. “This was not some symbolic measure.”
In a statement, President Trump explained the urgency behind the strikes:
My fellow Americans, on Tuesday, Syrian dictator 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.
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where a chemical attack was launched. It is in the 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 U.N. Security Council.
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. 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.
We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed and we hope that as long as America stands for justice, that peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail. Good night and God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.