President Trump unleashed airstrikes on Syria on Thursday to punish its strongman, Bashar Assad, after a chemical attack this week that killed dozens of civilians, including children. The barrage amounted to the most significant military operation ordered by Trump, a newcomer to governing who had warned, before taking office, against escalating America’s involvement in the Middle East.
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump said in Palm Beach, Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
The operation — the first known direct American strike on Syrian government assets since the start of the country’s civil war — rained at least 50 cruise missiles from U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean on a Syrian airfield thought to be the point of origin for the chemical attack, U.S. officials said. The attack took place at 8:40 p.m. Eastern time.