U.S. officials were assessing on Friday the results of an American cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase -- the first U.S. attack on President Bashar Assad’s forces since war engulfed his country six years ago, and the first major military operation ordered by President Donald Trump.
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Defense officials told CBS News on Friday that 58 of the 59 missiles launched from two U.S. warships on Thursday hit the Shayrat airbase as intended. It was unclear to U.S. officials where the 59th missile had landed after it suffered an apparent GPS failure, CBS News correspondent David Martin reported.
Russia and Syria attempted to downplay the efficacy of the U.S. strike on Friday, suggesting little meaningful damage was done and claiming Syria had time to remove some of its military hardware from the site before the missiles -- carrying a combined payload of about 59,000 pounds of explosives -- touched down at about 3:45 a.m. local time.
U.S. defense officials speaking to CBS News’ Martin on Friday were unambiguous; Syria did not have time to get any of its planes away from Shayrat before the strike.
The U.S. missiles targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, U.S. officials said. They were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for Tuesday’s deadly chemical attack, which officials said used chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin.
The Shayrat Airfield was targeted because it’s where the chemical weapons that were used in the Tuesday morning attack in Syria’s northern Idlib province came from, CBS News’ Martin reported. The cruise missile attack was chosen by U.S. commanders and approved by President Trump because it “carried least risk for Americans,” Martin said.
Syria’s military admitted Friday that “huge financial damage” was inflicted, and said six people were killed in the U.S. strike.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Britain-based monitoring and activist group, said four people were killed, including a Syrian officer.
Syrian media claimed Friday that more than one of the U.S. missiles had missed their intended target, suggesting civilian casualties in the vicinity were the result. There was no immediate U.S. military response to the claim of civilian casualties resulting from the Thursday cruise missile strike.
Bolivia requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday in response to the strike. The U.S. mission, which currently holds the rotating Council presidency, scheduled a meeting of the open chamber for 11:30 a.m. Eastern on Friday, CBS News’ Pamela Falk reports.
Russian military officials were notified of the impending U.S. operation in the vicinity of Sharyat at some point prior to the attack, but it isn’t yet clear how much notice they got, or whether any information they might have passed onto their Syrian partners on the ground could have proved helpful to Assad’s forces.