Residents of Damascus, the capital, woke to the sounds of multiple explosions shaking the city before the dawn call to prayer. But Friday night, the White House released what it said was "a significant body of information" that pointed to the use of chlorine gas - and possibly also the deadly nerve agent sarin.
The strikes were a response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Douma last weekend which killed dozens of civilians. It said that "all responsibility" rests with Washington, London and Paris.
The bombing represents a major escalation in the West's confrontation with Assad's superpower ally Russian Federation, but is unlikely to alter the course of a multi-sided war which has killed at least half a million people in the past seven years.
- More than 100 missiles were collectively launched overnight from British, French and American forces in Syria. All week, as Trump has recalled with horror to aides the images of ashen, lifeless Syrians - victims of the suspected chemical attack outside Damascus - he has pressed for decisive action, according to U.S. and Western officials familiar with the discussions.
At least three USA ships, as well as piloted warplanes, participated in the airstrikes. The U.S. -Russia communication line, called a deconfliction channel, has been active since the strikes, officials said.
The chairman of the worldwide affairs committee of Russia's upper house of parliament, Konstantin Kosachev, said the strikes were a violation of worldwide law and probably created to prevent investigators from the global chemical weapons watchdog from doing their work. "The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep", Trump said. "No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators".
Trump's deliberations this week over how to respond to the deadly chemical attack occurred at a tenuous moment for his presidency, with the special counsel's investigation winding its way further into the President's inner circle and many of Trump's trusted aides rushing for the exits. Macron's office said he spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing concern about the deterioration of the situation in Syria and calling for more dialogue with Moscow.
Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain said Syria had left the allies no choice.
The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump's second order to attack Syria; he authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad's use of sarin gas against civilians.
"This is not about intervening in a civil war", she said.
Defense officials said Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from three USA warships, while B-1 bombers dropped long-range missiles on targets.