U.S. launches strike on Syrian military airfield: Here's what we know

President Donald Trump speaks about attack on Syrian air base

The U.S. launched cruise missiles against Syria Friday, a day after President Trump said a chemical weapons attack that killed 86, “crossed many, many” lines.

Here’s what we know so far:

Why did the U.S. attack?

Back in 2013, President Obama set a "red line" against the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad. The regime proceeded to use the weapons to kill 1,400 civilians, but Obama did not attack — a move Trump and other Republicans widely criticized as making America look weak.

In the wake of that episode, Assad agreed to turn over his stockpile of chemical weapons. This week's chemical attack clearly violated that pledge. Trump called the attack — which killed at least 86 people, 27 of them children —  "a disgrace to humanity" and "truly one of the egregious crimes."

What Trump says:

"It is in the vital national security interest of the United states to prevent and deter the use of deadly chemical weapons," Trump said from his Mar-a-Lago retreat after the strikes were carried out.

How did the U.S. attack?

The cruise missiles were fired from a U.S. Navy vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. The missiles hit multiple targets, including the airfield which serves as the base for the warplanes suspected of carrying out the chemical attack.

The plan for the attack followed one devised in 2013 after Obama set his "red line," a senior defense official told USA TODAY.

Has the U.S. struck Syria before?

The U.S. has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria since 2014, but this was the first strike against the Syrian regime. This also marked the first conventional assault on another country ordered by Trump.

Why did the U.S. attack from ships?

Tomahawk missiles can travel 1,500 miles to strike their target. So, the U.S. Navy was able to launch the attack from the Mediterranean Sea, avoiding the need to get permission from any host country to launch the strikes.

What are the risks of attacking the regime?

One potential concern is the safety of  U.S. special operations troops in eastern Syria who are advising local ground forces in their fight against the Islamic State. One official told USA TODAY there are fears Assad could counter by targeting the U.S. troops. The strikes also effectively open up a new front in America's 16-year war in the Middle East.

Photos: Chemical attack kills dozens in Syria



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