BREAKING: US Launches Military Strike Against Syria

BREAKING: US Launches Military Strike Against Syria

(CNN)The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government target in retaliation for their chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week.

On President Donald Trump's orders, US warships launched between 50-60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase where the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks were based, US officials said.

"Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched," Trump said during short remarks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago. "It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."

    He added: "There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically."

    A US defense official said the strike was targeted on runway, aircraft and fuel points. The missiles were launched from warships in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Strikes are over "until another decision is made," the official said.

    The strikes are the first direct military action the US has taken against the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year civil war and represent a substantial escalation of the US' military campaign in the region, which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.

    There were Russians at the base that the US struck Thursday night, a US defense official. It was not said what the Russians' role was at the base. In addition, according to the official, the US had multiple conversations with the Russians today to warn them of the coming attack.

    Separately, in an effort to tie the US strike to the chemical attack, the US military showed reporters an image of the radar track of a Syrian airplane leaving the airfield and headed to chemical strike area on Tuesday. A second image of bomb damage craters at the airbase was also shown to reporters at the Pentagon.

    Lawmakers generally supported Trump's decision to strike back against Assad Thursday night, but cautioned the President against unilaterally starting a war without first consulting Congress. 

    A pair of defense hawks -- Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- who have frequently been critical of Trump, roundly praised his decision Thursday night. 

    "Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin's Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs," McCain and Graham said in a joint statement.

    But Sen. Rand Paul called on Trump to consult on Congress.

    "While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the US was not attacked," Paul said.

    The US began launching airstrikes in Syria in September 2014 under President Barack Obama as part of its coalition campaign against ISIS, but has only targeted the terrorist group and not Syrian government forces.

    Trump met with his national security team before his dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago Thursday, where he made the decision to pull the trigger on the biggest military action of his presidency, an administration official says.

    He sat through dinner with the President Xi as action was under way.

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