The United States warned Russia before launching 59 tomahawk missiles on Syria, according to an unconfirmed report from a US official. A statement from the Pentagon Thursday night also said that “Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line.” So far there have been six confirmed casualties.
The airfield targeted is where Tuesday’s suspected sarin gas attack was believed to have been launched. The US struck the Al-Shayrat Airbase near Homs at 8:45 p.m. ET, targeting hangars, aircraft, runways, and fuel storage areas, while President Trump was dining with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a formal dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida. No Russian assets were targeted, the official also stated in their report.
The claim that Russia was warned ahead of the attack on the airfield confirms what Rex Tillerson said on Thursday. The Secretary of State claimed that Russia had failed on a 2013 agreement to secure Syrian chemical weapons, adding that Russia was either complicit or incompetent in upholding the deal. He went on to say that the US “sought no approval from Moscow” on any potential strikes.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, gave a stern warning earlier on Thursday about US military strikes on Syria, telling reporters “We have to think about negative consequences, negative consequences, and all the responsibility if military action occurred will be on shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise.” Sanfronkov also pointed out that these exact consequences could be seen playing out now in Libya and Iraq.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces have been blamed by many media outlets for Tuesday’s chemical attack that left at least 86 dead, including several children, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, however, the Syrian government has denied any responsibility. An airstrike hit the town center and Doctors without Borders medics who visited hospitals in the area said some victims had symptoms consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent “such as Sarin gas or similar compounds.”
Russia, an ally of Syria, with the backing of China, cast its seventh veto to protect Assad’s government from council action in February. This move blocked a bid by Western powers to impose sanctions over chemical weapons accusations in Syria. China has also officially vetoed the move six times. As more information is released it appears that if the report that Russia was forewarned of the US strike on Syria can be confirmed, it could put a great strain on US-Russian relations.