On April 4 2017 at 6:30 am local time, an airstrike hit the rebel-held town of Khan Shaykhun in the northern Idlib Province. A few minutes after the strike, people began to notice symptoms of chemical poisoning, particularly pinpointed pupils, the mark of the neurotoxin known as sarin gas. About an hour after the attack people started arriving at the local hospital where they were treated but many were unable to reach it in time. Authorities in Idlib Province have determined that 74 people have died due to the attack but others such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French Ambassador to the United Nations Francois DeLattre have suggested that over 100 may have died.
The United States and its allies in Europe and Asia and the rebels in Syria have come to the consensus that the Syrian government is responsible for the chemical attack. President Trump has called the attack “reprehensible” and that the Syrian government should be held in contempt “by the civilized world” while France called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Russia, a staunch supporter of the Syrian government, maintains that there is no concrete evidence that President Assad is behind the attack on Khan Shaykhun while the Syrian government itself has denied any involvement and has blamed the rebels.
On the morning of April 7 the American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addressed the Security Council saying, “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.” Later that day around 8:30 pm Eastern Standard Time the United States Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles aimed at the Syrian airbase from which the chemical attack was launched. The American attack killed six Syrian servicemembers and, according to Defense Secretary James Mattis, destroyed 20% of the Syrian government’s aircraft. This military response has divided opinions but there is one consensus: it sent a message.
The U.S. Administration has not publicly laid out any further plans for the region. The Civil War in Syria continues to rage on and it does not appear there is an end in sight.