Syria has begun reconstruction efforts at the airbase destroyed by U.S. cruise missiles Thursday, CBSNews reports.
U.S. intelligence reportedly spotted earth moving equipment at the site, where Secretary of Defense James Mattis says nearly “20 percent” of Syria’s air-force was destroyed. The strike was in retaliation for an early April chemical weapons attack on civilians by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “The Syrian Air Force is not in good shape,” Mattis declared.
Syrian aircraft defiantly took off from the airbase the day after the U.S. attack, prompting questions by some as to why the U.S. did not strike the runway. The criticism was answered by President Donald Trump himself via twitter:
“The regime’s ability to generate offensive military capability from Shayrat airfield, which we assess, was the launching point for this chemical attack has been severely degraded,” CENTCOM commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel continued to reporters Tuesday.
The airbase struck by the U.S. was an important staging point for Syrian and Russian aircraft targeting rebel held areas. Russia frequently carries out airstrikes on behalf of the Assad regime. No Russian aircraft were targeted by the U.S. cruise missile strike, and the Russian military was notified hours prior to the strike about the U.S. intent.
Mattis indicated the Trump administration may take action against Assad again if chemical weapons are used, saying it is in the “vital national interest” of the U.S. “that chemical weapons not be used, that the bar not keep getting lowered by the Assad regime so this becomes commonplace.”
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