Dozens killed in attacks on Syria’s biggest airfield, Trump confirms

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan ordered a briefing on the early morning missile strike last month against an airfield in Syria used by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Pentagon press secretary Dana White said on Wednesday.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, briefed Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Shanahan on the scene of Shayrat airfield on 17 May, White said.

White provided no further details about the briefing. The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Mattis had not been briefed on the planned attack, nor had he raised the issue with the White House.

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Mattis made his views known to other Pentagon leaders, saying it would be the wrong tactic to strike an airfield with what he called a “presidential bomb”, citing what the administration considered to be a necessary fight against Islamic State.

The attack, retaliation for the suspected use of sarin gas in an attack in northern Syria in April, killed seven people. Reports of civilian casualties were initially disputed, but Amnesty International subsequently concluded that the attack killed at least 60 civilians.

The Trump administration also imposed sanctions on Assad, his government and “designated persons”, targeting their profits from petroleum and natural gas exports as well as their sales of spare parts and spare munitions.

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