The United States launched a military strike on Syrian government targets in retaliation for their chemical weapon attack on civilians earlier in the week, CNN is told.
On President Donald Trump's orders, US warships launched 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The strikes are the first direct military action the US has taken against the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year civil war and represent a substantial escalation of the US' military campaign in the region, which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war. The US began launching airstrikes in Syria in September 2014 under President Barack Obama as part of its coalition campaign against ISIS, but has only targeted the terrorist group and not Syrian government forces.Preparations were apparent earlier tonight:
U.S. appears to be on the verge of Syria missile strike: Military strike would be in response to nerve gas attack that killed scores of civilians
With two destroyers armed with cruise missiles positioned in the eastern Mediterranean, the U.S. appeared on the verge of launching a strike against the Syrian military in retaliation for the suspected chemical attack earlier this week.
Preparations for the attack came in the middle of a high-stakes summit between President Trump and China’s President Xi at the Florida White House.
Cruise missiles are unmanned aircraft which carry a 1,000-pound warhead. They fly close to the ground below enemy air defenses, guided to their targets by GPS satellites.
Mr. Trump is the second president to be on the brink of military action against the Assad regime.
“A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” then-President Obama said in 2012.
And after a sarin gas attack in 2013 killed more than 1,400 Syrians, Mr. Obama prepared for airstrikes.
“The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use,” he said.
But Mr. Obama backed down from his threat after Assad promised to hand over his stockpile of chemical weapons, a promise this week’s attack suggests the dictator did not keep.
That was nearly four years ago, before Russia had intervened in Syria on the side of the regime. If President Trump gives the order to strike this time, it will be carried out under the noses of the Russian military.
So which is it? Did we inform the Russians or not?
Wisdom from Jill Stein: