BREAKING LIVE BLOG: The U.S. launched cruise missiles against a Syrian regime target in retaliation for a chemical attack.
In a televised statement, Mr. Trump said he authorized the airstrikes because “it is in the vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the use of deadly chemical weapons.”
After changing his position on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad staying in power earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefed President Trump on military options in Syria. In an impromptu press conference, Tillerson said of Assad, “It will seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.” When asked about a possibility of removing Assad, Tillerson replied “Those steps are underway.”
8:40 p.m.: At the U.N., Assad’s ally, Russia, warned the U.S. that there could be “negative consequences” if the U.S. took military action in Syria. Russia, which has provided military support for the Syrian government since September 2015, had indicated earlier on Thursday that its support of the Assad regime is not unconditional.
9:00 p.m.: Two destroyers armed with cruise missiles positioned in the eastern Mediterranean, CBS News reports. Cruise missiles are unmanned aircraft which carry a 1,000-pound warhead. They fly close to the ground below enemy air defenses, guided to their targets by GPS satellites.
9:21 p.m.: Nearly 60 cruise missiles were launched from ships in the eastern Mediterranean, CBS News’ David Martin reports. The airfield targeted is located about 50 miles due south of the village that was hit in a gas attack. All of the Tomahawk missiles are designed to hit within one minute of each other -- and each cruise missile carries a 1,000 pound warhead, according to Martin.
9:39 p.m.: U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said in a joint statement that the U.S. “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.”
“Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people,” the statement read.
9:46 p.m.: Mr. Trump gave a brief statement in Florida. He said he authorized the strike and there is no dispute Syria used “banned chemical weapons.”
10:01 p.m.: In a televised statement, Mr. Trump said he authorized the airstrikes because “it is in the vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the use of deadly chemical weapons.”
10:07 p.m.: Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin said in a statement in support of the airstrike, but he stressed that “any longer-term or larger military operation in Syria by the Trump Administration will need to be done in consultation with the Congress.” Republican Sen. Rand Paul said on Fox News Radio’s “Kilmeade & Friends” that the Congress would have to authorize any military action, according to CNN.
10:14 p.m.: Syrian state TV called the airstrikes an “act of aggression,” the Associated Press reports, and “leads to losses.”