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U.S. Launches Over 50 Cruise Missiles at Syrian Base After Chemical Weapons Attack

The United States launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield Thursday night in response to a recent chemical attack in Idlib province that killed at least 70 people, including many children, U.S. officials told NBC News.

Two American warships fired the missiles at the Ash Sha’irat air base near Homs in western Syria, which the U.S. believes was used to launch Tuesday’s lethal chemical weapons attack against the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun. U.S. officials said the strikes did not target people, instead hitting aircraft and critical infrastructure at the base.

“The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act,” Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement. “U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.”

The choice of target “suggests that the Trump administration is seeking to punish the perpetrators and deter future gas attacks while minimizing the chances of a larger military confrontation with Assad’s forces or Russia,” Politico reported.

Cruise missiles were used to avoid the possibility of American aircraft being at risk from Syria’s air defenses.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis presented President Donald Trump with a number of military options to respond to the lethal chemical weapons attack earlier Thursday.

The decision to go ahead with a strike came just a day after Trump declared that the attack on Khan Sheikhun had had “crossed many, many lines” and that his view of the Assad regime had “changed very much” as a result.

[Photo: Naval Surface Warriors / Flickr ]