And why Shayrat Airfield’s runways weren’t one of the targets.
When Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters late Thursday night about the cruise missile strike on Shayrat Airfield, the sun wasn’t yet up in western Syria, and he couldn’t offer many details on the strikes’ impacts. Today, the U.S. got its first good look at the damage.
The 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles hit as many targets at the airfield, two senior defense officials told reporters Friday. The aim points included about 20 Syrian government aircraft and multiple hangars, as seen in several photos the Defense Department released today.
The attack was launched in response to a chemical weapons attack against Syrian citizens earlier this week that President Donald Trump said was conducted by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The defense officials said the U.S. didn’t target Russian forces or equipment that were also housed at the airfield and instead focused on anything the Syrians might use in a military operation.
According to the Syrian government, at least seven people were killed in the attack.
One key part of the airfield wasn’t hit: the two runways. According to a video purportedly taken outside Shayrat on Friday, jets were already taking off from the airstrip the day after the attack.
Video of the first Syrian Air Force (Sukhoi Su-22) bomber taking off from Shayrat Airbase after the US Tomahawk attack this morning pic.twitter.com/3vy2YxGLmz— M Green (@MmaGreen) April 7, 2017
Partly, that was a calculation about the intended message to the Assad regime — one of deterrence, not escalation — but it was more about the actual physical effects.
“Really, the munitions that we were using, it would have been a waste of a munition,” the official said.
So instead, the U.S. targeted all the other aspects of the airfield that make it functional: the aircraft and their hardened shelters, the missile defense system, and fueling stations.
See for yourself: