Graphic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer
Last Thursday, President Donald Trump gave the U.S. military the green light to launch a targeted airstrike on a government air base in Syria that killed six people.
According to a statement that Trump delivered from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on April 6, the strike was authorized in response to a chemical attack that was allegedly launched by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on April 4.
“Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” confirmed Trump. “It is in this vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
President Trump’s strike consisted of 59 Tomahawk missiles, of which 58 hit their intended target, a Syrian military airfield. The attack was successful in rendering refueling stations, airplanes and hangars inoperable, the Washington Post confirmed on April 8.
The Syrian military maintains that it was not behind the attack, and that the toxic gas, which killed 72 men, women and children, was instead released when a Syrian warplane bombed a building that contained chemical weapons, according to abc7 News.
After Assad became President in 2010, a civil war erupted in Syria between his supporters and rebel groups after teenagers were arrested and tortured for painting “revolutionary slogans” on a school bathroom wall, according to BBC. Pro-democracy protests broke out as a response and the Assad’s security forces responded to the dissent with violence.
Statistics from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs show that as of March 2017, 13.5 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, 5 million people fled the country and 6.3 million people were displaced by violence.
The strike is the first military action that the United States has taken against Assad’s regime during Syria’s six-year civil war, according to CNN. It remains unclear how this will impact the U.S.’s relationships with Syria and its ally, Russia.
At an emergency UN meeting that took place last Wednesday, Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov denounced the U.S.’s strike as a supportive gesture to Syrian terrorists.
“We must recall when you take your own path that this leads to horrible tragedies for countries in the region and the people living there,” said Safronkov. “Think of the consequences. Remember what you’ve produced in the Middle East.”
During his campaign, Trump clarified his position on removing Assad from power. “We don’t know who the rebels are,” he stated at the Third 2016 Presidential Debate, moderated by Fox News on Oct. 19, 2016. “But if they overthrow Assad, as bad as Assad is, and he’s a bad guy, but you may very well end up with worse than Assad.”