(CN) – The United States on Thursday night launched a cruise missile strike against Syria.
President Donald Trump ordered the strike on Syrian government targets in retaliation for the chemical weapon attack on civilians in Idlib, Syria earlier this week that left 80 people, many of them women and children, dead.
President Donald Trump said Thursday night that there is “no dispute” Syria used chemical weapons on its own people earlier this week and that the missile strike was in the ‘vital national security interest’ of the United States.
Trump also called on “civilized nations: to join U.S. in “seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria,” according to reporters traveling with the president.
The attack was launched at about 8:45 p.m. eastern time Thursday night — about sunrise in the Middle East — from two U.S. warships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It consisted of the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to an administration official, speaking on background.
They are reportedly striking the Shayrat airbase in Homs province, which is the site from which the planes that conducted the chemical attack are believed to have originated.
It is President Trump’s first use of force since he assumed office and is the first time the White House has ordered military action against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday, Trump had said he was shocked by the gruesome photos and videos he saw of the carnage caused by the chemical attack and that al-Assad and his forces “crossed a lot of lines for me.”
“I will tell you … my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House Wednesday.
“When you kill innocent children — innocent babies — little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines,” the president said.
President Barack Obama launched airstrikes against sites in Syria in September 2014 as part of a coalition campaign against the Islamic State group, but those strikes only targeted the terrorist group and not Syrian government forces.
Trump reportedly met with his national security team shortly before sitting down to diner with Chinese President Xi at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
According to White House pool reports, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and national security advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster are all with Trump in Florida.
Vice President Mike Pence has reportedly returned to the White House.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and National Security Council officials are going to have a background briefing later tonight at the Tideline Hotel on Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. As of 9:45 p.m. eastern time, the time of the briefing has not been announced.
The Chinese delegation’s motorcade left Mar-a-Lago shortly after 9:30 p.m., according to the White House.
– Developing story.