The U.S. launched missiles at a Syrian airfield Thursday night after a chemical weapons attack in the country earlier this week, U.S. military officials told NBC News.
A pair of U.S. warships situated in the Mediterranean Sea fired at least 50 missiles at the airfield which officials believe was responsible for the attack that killed at least 100 people on Tuesday, according to NBC News.
Although aircraft and infrastructure at the site were impacted, the attack wasn’t meant to target people, an official told NBC News. It was not immediately clear if the attack led to casualties.
The military strike is the first time the U.S. has taken military action against the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amid the country’s six-year civil war, according to CNN. It could be seen as a sizable escalation that “could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.”
Trump talked to reporters at Mar-a-Lago Thursday night, calling on “civilized nations” for help in “seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”
"Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said. “It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread or use of deadly chemical weapons.”
The chemical weapons attack that took place in northern Syria left people convulsing in the streets and overcrowded local hospitals, The Associated Press reported. Immediately after the attack, the Trump administration blamed the Syrian government. Trump was very affected by the images of dead kids among the casualties in the Tuesday massacre and felt that the administration needed to act, a senior official told CNN.
As New York Times reporter Anne Barnard notes on the publication’s podcast The Daily, no matter who you are, no matter who you are fighting, the use of chemical weapons is a war crime.
The attack presented international leaders with a question: Is the world willing to tolerate a leader who is willing to use these kinds of weapons on his own people?