Note: This article has been updated to reflect Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford’s comments on the Syrian missile strikes.
President Trump addressed the nation and the world in a televised news conference Friday night and announced that the United States was carrying out strategic strikes on Syria with Britain and France as he was speaking.
The strikes, which contained nearly double the amount of missiles as the 2017 Syrian strike, is in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gassing entire families to death last weekend in Douma and East Ghouta.
Groups in the area, which put Assad’s chemical gas attack death toll at more than 70 people, said many residents were hiding in cellars, suffocating from poison gas.
There are images and videos emerging of explosions in Damascus, the Syrian capital.
FLASH: First photo emerges showing airstrike on Damascus – @maramkasem pic.twitter.com/VkRaIWILz2
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) April 14, 2018
Trump stated: “I ordered the United States Armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator of Bashar al-Assad.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis held a press conference an hour after President Trump, and he stated that Assad’s actions were inexcusable. He also laid out the Constitutional authority that the President had to order the strike.
Mattis said that “clearly the Assad regime did not get the message last year.”
Mattis also made it clear that this is a one-time event and there are no other strikes planned at this time.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford took the podium after Mattis and said that the targets in the strike were associated with the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program and other strategic assets. He also noted that the 2017 strike on Syria, also for gassing its own people, was on a single target – a Syrian air base, whereas this current strike was on multiple targets.
Dunford also said that manned aircraft were involved in the strike but that he would not elaborate further on that until the morning.
Russia was not notified of the strike nor did the Coalition coordinate with Russia.
There are no reports of U.S. casualties at the moment.
President Trump also directly addressed Russia and Iran, the two large enablers of Syria’s dictator, Assad, and asked them what kind of nation wants to be associated with murderous dictators who kill their own people.
Is has been reported that the viral videos of children suffering and dying from the gas greatly affected the President.
Trump also said that he hopes the strikes will “establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.”
He continued: “The combined American, British and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power: military, economic and diplomatic.”
“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” Trump said.
A year ago in 2017, President Trump gave the order to hit Syria with 59 missile strikes in response to Syria’s Assad gassing his own people.
#BREAKING – First photo of #Syrian air defense missile launched against #US, #UK and #French cruise missiles striking the capital #Damascus. Via @AlSuraEnglish pic.twitter.com/w3k6jXk1dM
— Paul Antonopoulos (@oulosP) April 14, 2018
The strike came days after Trump announced that the U.S. may or may not strike Syria.
“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place,” Trump tweeted earlier this week. “Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our ‘Thank you America?’”
Trump had said on Monday to expect “major decisions” on Syria within the coming days.
And Defense Secretary Mattis said Monday he wouldn’t “rule out anything right now” when it comes to launching airstrikes against Assad in response to the suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians over the weekend.
This is Mattis’ statement from Friday night:
Good evening. As the world knows, the Syrian people have suffered terribly under the prolonged brutality of the Assad regime.
On April 7th, the regime decided to again defy the norms of civilized people, showing callous disregard for international law by using chemical weapons to murder women, children and other innocents. We and our allies find these atrocities inexcusable.
As our commander in chief, the president has the authority under Article II of the Constitution to use military force overseas to defend important U.S. national interests. The United States has an important national interest in averting a worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, and specifically deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.
Last year, in response to a chemical weapons attack against civilians and to signal the regime to cease chemical weapons use, we targeted the military base from which the weapons were delivered.
Earlier today, President Trump directed the U.S. military to conduct operations, in consonance with our allies, to destroy the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons research, development and production capabilities.
Tonight, France, the United Kingdom and the United States took decisive action to strike the Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure.
Clearly, the Assad regime did not get the message last year. This time, our allies and we have struck harder. Together, we have sent a clear message to Assad, and his murderous lieutenants, that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable.
The 70 nations in the defeat ISIS coalition remain committed to defeating ISIS in Syria. The strike tonight separately demonstrates international resolve to prevent chemical weapons from being used on anyone, under any circumstance, in contravention of international law.
I want to emphasize that these strikes are directed at the Syrian regime. In conducting these strikes, we have gone to great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties.
But it is time for all civilized nations to urgently unite in ending the Syrian civil war by supporting the United Nations backed Geneva peace process.
In accordance with the chemical weapons convention prohibiting the use of such weapons, we urge responsible nations to condemn the Assad regime and join us in our firm resolve to prevent chemical weapons from being used again.