SYRIA — The United States fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria Thursday night in retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians, U.S. officials said. It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Donald Trump's most dramatic military order since becoming president.
President Trump says the missile attack was in the nation's "vital national security interest."
Trump says the United States must "prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons." He says there is "no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons."
He called on "all civilized nations" to join the U.S. in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria, saying "No child of God should ever suffer such horror."
Trump spoke to reporters after the United States attacked a Syrian air base in response to a chemical weapons attack it blames on President Bashar Assad.
**Watch President Trump's comments in the video, above**
Syrian state TV reported a U.S. missile attack on a number of military targets and called the attack an "aggression."
The U.S. strikes —59 missiles launched from the USS Ross and USS Porter — hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base in central Syria, where U.S. officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off. The U.S. 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.
The surprise strike marked a striking reversal for Trump, who warned as a candidate against the U.S. getting pulled into the Syrian civil war, now in its seventh year. 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."
The Tomahawk missiles, fired from warships in the Mediterranean Sea, targeted an air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that American officials believe Syrian government aircraft launched with a nerve agent, possibly sarin.
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.
"I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes and shouldn't have happened and it shouldn't be allowed to happen," Trump told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Florida, where he was holding a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The strike came as Trump was hosting Xi in meetings focused in part on another pressing U.S. 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.
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