On President Donald Trump’s orders, the United States has launched a military strike on Syrian government targets in retaliation for their chemical weapon attack on civilians earlier in the week, CNN reported Thursday night.
U.S. warships launched 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to the report.
The strikes are the first direct military action the U.S. has taken against the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2014 former president Obama order a military campaign against ISIS targets in the region. The new operation represents a substantial escalation of the US’ military campaign in the region, which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.
Responding to the attack, Russia issued a statement warning that Trump’s actions will result in “serious consequences.”
Trump’s order to strike the Syrian government targets came a day after he said the chemical attacks —whose grisly effects were broadcast worldwide thanks to videos captured in the immediate aftermath — “crossed a lot of lines for me” and said he felt a “responsibility” to respond.
“I will tell you it’s already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” Trump said.
“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies… little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines,” Trump said.
Trump’s decision to launch the strikes, the most significant military action of his young presidency, came nearly four years after the US first concluded that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons in Syria.
Trump at the time said the US should “stay the hell out of Syria” and urged Obama on Twitter to “not attack Syria” in the wake of the 2013 chemical attack.
The Obama administration concluded that Syria had violated the “red line” Obama had set a year earlier in discussing the use of chemical weapons, but ultimately decided against military action against Syria in favor of a Russian-brokered deal to extricate the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.
Trump argued last May in a TV interview that he would “go after ISIS big league,” but said he did not support targeting Assad’s regime, arguing the US has “bigger problems than Assad.”
Trump did not consult with Congress before launching the attack.