The office of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on Friday denounced the U.S. missile strike against one of its air bases as “reckless” and “irresponsible.”
The statement claimed the strikes were “shortsighted” and reflected a continuation of policy based on targeting and “subjugating people,” regardless of which administration is in charge.
The U.S. military blasted the Shayrat air base near Homs with a barrage of cruise missiles in fiery retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians. More than 80 people were killed during the chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Syria's Foreign Ministry called the U.S. attack “a flagrant aggression” to “weaken the strength of the Syrian army in confronting terrorist groups.” The ministry also described the chemical attack as a “premeditated action that aimed to justify the launching of a U.S. attack on the Syrian army.”
The U.S. strikes — 59 missiles launched from the USS Ross and USS Porter — hit the government-controlled air base, where U.S. officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off.
It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and President Donald Trump's most dramatic military order since becoming president just more than two months ago. The strikes also risk thrusting the U.S. deeper into an intractable conflict that his predecessor spent years trying to avoid.
Talal Barazi, the governor of the province of Homs, said on Friday that the dawn attack killed at least seven people and wounded nine. The attack also caused extensive damage to the air base.
Jamil al-Saleh, a rebel commander in the central Hama province, called for more strikes, saying "Bashar's regime only understands force."
He said he hoped the missile attack "is a turning point and not a passing thing."
The Syrian Coalition, an opposition group, said the U.S. attack puts an end to an age of "impunity" and should herald the start of a larger campaign.
The victims of Tuesday's chemical attack in the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed more than 80 people and wounded dozens more, welcomed the strike, but said they feared it would be a one-off.
Alaa Alyousef, a 27-year-old survivor, called for a no-fly zone to protect civilians, saying that confining the strikes to one air base was merely an "anesthetic."
Khaled al-Khaled, whose 16-year-old son is struggling to recover from the attack, said he rejects foreign intervention in Syria, but that "the regime has forced us to join hands with enemies. ... No one is supporting the Syrian people. Only God is on our side."
President Trump defended Thursday night’s attack as vital to deter future use of poison gas and called on other nations to join in seeking "to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria."
Announcing the assault from his Florida resort, Trump said there was no doubt Assad was responsible for the chemical attack, which he said employed banned gases and killed dozens.
"Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children," Trump declared.
Trump ordered the strikes without approval from Congress or the backing of the United Nations. U.S. officials said he had the right to use force to defend national interests and to protect civilians from atrocities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.