President Donald Trump yesterday night announced that he has ordered an air strike on Syria in response to last weekend’s alleged chemical weapons attack and that the strike is currently underway.
The strike came as Trump has alluded to military action in Syria all week, even tweeting on Wednesday that Russia should be “ready” because “nice and new and ‘smart’” missiles “will be coming.” But Thursday, he seemed to walk back that statement, tweeting military action “could be very soon or not so soon at all.”
Trump has reportedly been moved by images of the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian city of Douma outside of Damascus all week, calling it “atrocious.”“We cannot allow atrocities like that. Cannot allow it,” Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting on Monday, adding he expected to make a decision on a response in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford met with the President at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Syria. There were additional National Security Council meetings on Thursday and Friday.
Trump also spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May several times by phone this week. The administration said previously any response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged chemical weapons use would be done in consultation with allies.
Perhaps in preparation for a strike, Syria repositioned some of its aircraft from bases earlier in the week, a U.S. official told ABC News. A second official said the Syrian military had gone into an increased defensive posture.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization said that during the shelling of Douma, “an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals.”
“More than 70 people sheltering in basements have reportedly died, with 43 of those deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals,” the organization said.
“Two health facilities were also reportedly affected by these attacks.”
On Friday, U.S. Ambassador the United Nations Nikki Haley said analysis done by the U.S., U.K. and France proved the chemical attack.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert also confirmed the use of chemical weapons, but said the U.S. was still “looking into” the “exact kind or the mix” of agent used.