The United States launched more than 50 tomahawk missiles Thursday night at al-Shayrat military airfield, a base used by both Syrian and Russian military forces in Syria’s ongoing civil war.
The airfield isn’t just a valuable military target: It was from al-Shayrat that the Syrian government launched its chemical-weapons attack Tuesday on Idlib province’s Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held city.
After the U.S. missile launch Thursday night, President Donald Trump himself confirmed that the air base, near Homs, was the origin of the chemical-weapons strike, a fact that some news outlets had reported earlier in the day. Just before the president addressed the nation, an official told Voice of America there was a “high degree of confidence” the attack came from the airfield, “under the command” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier Thursday, BuzzFeed News reported that a “network of local monitors” inside the country tracked Syrian jets departing al-Shayrat on Tuesday, which were later seen “circling Khan Sheikhun before the attack.”
How the Trump administration would respond to the deadly strike on Khan Sheikhun seemed murky just hours before Thursday’s missile launch. During a press conference Wednesday, Trump hinted at the potential for a military response, but went no further. By Thursday afternoon, CNN reported that he had clued in members of Congress that he was “considering military action,” and Reuters alleged strategy talks between the Pentagon and the White House were already under way.