The U.S. launched a series of strikes in Syria, targeting chemical weapons facilities and a research center using both aircrafts and ships, President Trump announced Friday night.
The military attack was ordered in coordination with France and the U.K., in response to what the U.S. believes was a chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week. The Syrian government is accused of deploying chemical weapons against civilians in eastern Ghouta, which reportedly killed dozens of people and affected hundreds more.
"The purpose of our action tonight is to establish a strong deterrent" against the use of chemical weapons, Trump said in a statement. He said that the strikes would continue until "the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents." Trump denounced the "evil and despicable attack," calling it a crime fit for "a monster." He ordered the strikes without the approval of Congress, The New York Times reports.
Trump additionally addressed Russia and Iran in his statement, two nations that back the Syrian government. "Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully someday we'll get along with Russia and maybe even Iran, but maybe not," Trump said. Both Syria and Russia have denied involvement in the attack, and Russia claimed on Friday that the event was "staged" by the U.K.
Syrian state media reported that the Syrian military responded to "American aggression," and began shooting down missiles as they targeted a research center in Damascus, CNN reports. Defense Secretary James Mattis did not confirm the Syrian response, and told reporters that there were no reports of losses to the U.S.