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Timeline: A Chemical Attack, a Shift in US Syrian Policy

  • Associated Press

USS Ross fires a Tomahawk land attack missile, April 7, 2017. USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

The U.S. attack on a Syrian air base Friday morning came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war.

Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict, with the U.N. blaming three attacks on the Syrian government and a fourth on the Islamic State group.

Here’s a timeline of this week’s events:

FILE - This April 4, 2017, photo provided by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center shows a man carrying a child following a suspected chemical attack at a makeshift hospital in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, Syria.
FILE - This April 4, 2017, photo provided by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center shows a man carrying a child following a suspected chemical attack at a makeshift hospital in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, Syria.

April 4, 2017

One of the worst chemical attacks came Tuesday in rebel-held northern Idlib where dozens were killed in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Witnesses said the attack was carried out by either Russian or Syrian Sukhoi jets. Moscow and Damascus denied responsibility.

That attack prompted President Donald Trump, on day 77 of his presidency, to dramatically shift U.S. policy on Syria. Trump issued a statement saying that the “heinous” actions of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government are the direct result of Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution.”

After the attack, hospitals around Khan Sheikhoun were overwhelmed, and paramedics sent victims to medical facilities across rebel-held areas in northern Syria, as well as to Turkey.

President Donald Trump and Jordan's King Abdullah II hold a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, April 5, 2017.
President Donald Trump and Jordan's King Abdullah II hold a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, April 5, 2017.

April 5, 2017

Trump says Assad’s government had “crossed a lot of lines” with the chemical attack in Syria. At a joint Rose Garden news conference alongside Jordanian King Abdullah II, Trump said the attack "cannot be tolerated.”

U.S. forces are said to have targeted Shayrat Airfield in western Syria, in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack that American officials believe Syrian government aircraft launched on a rebel-held town with a nerve gas, possibly sarin.
U.S. forces are said to have targeted Shayrat Airfield in western Syria, in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack that American officials believe Syrian government aircraft launched on a rebel-held town with a nerve gas, possibly sarin.

April 6, 2017

The U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria Friday morning in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack against civilians. Trump said strike on Syria in the “vital national security interest” of the United States.

U.S. officials had said they hoped for a vote Thursday night on a U.N. Security Council resolution that would condemn the chemical attack, but the vote did not take place.

April 7, 2017

Syria decried a U.S. missile attack on a government-controlled air base where U.S. officials say the Syrian military launched a deadly chemical attack earlier this week, calling it an “aggression” that led to “losses.”

A Syrian opposition group, the Syrian Coalition, welcomed the U.S. attack, saying it puts an end to an age of “impunity” and should be just the beginning.

Major Jamil al-Saleh, a U.S-backed rebel commander whose Hama district in the country’s center was struck by a suspected chemical weapons attack, said he hoped the U.S. attack on a government air base would be a “turning point” in the six-year war.

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