One of the worst mass casualty chemical attacks in the six-year war in Syria was conducted on April 4, killing over 85 civilians who were triggered by the deadly chemical sarin. The bombs were rained down on the rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province where the chemical release that could attack by seeping through skin had an immediate reaction towards the villagers. The casualties were reported to be mostly children, who were forced to endure an excruciating death of fits and asphyxiation. The Syrian Army denied responsibility of the event, revoking the usage of chemical weapons on their behalf and rather claiming correlation with the many terrorist groups in the region. The Idlib province is largely controlled by a coalition of rebel forces and is regularly targeted in airstrikes by the Syrian military and its ally, Russia, who also rejected any interference in the conflict.
“Although chemical attacks are not happening everyday in Syria, whenever the atrocity strikes there are serious repercussions,” said Morgan Miller, US history teacher. “The human rights crisis is an awful one, and hearing the many stories of victims and refugees it seems to be a problem that is not going to go away anytime soon.”
Regardless, leaders around the world denounced the reported airstrikes. President Trump’s response to Assad’s chemical attack was a powerful Tomahawk missile strike geared towards Syrian air bases in which the Pentagon claimed was used to store its chemical weapons. According to the New York Times, Trump, having been shook and horrified by the graphic images of innocent children choking on poison gas, had been looking for an immediate response that was both proportionate but aggressive and sufficient to send a signal. Trump was in the midst of his conference with Chinese leader Xi Jinping when he gave the media his briefing of the response attacks. According to CNN News, the Tomahawk missile attacks were a response to Syria’s usage of banned chemical weapons that violated their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention of the UN Security Council, furthermore committing war crimes against the innocent many.
“Personally, Trump’s response seemed to be more of a symbolic one than an effective one, as the air base creating the chemical weapons in Syria is still functional,” said Mr. Miller. “The US spent a lot of money for a policy that did not solve the problem, and it raises further questions on what the US response will be with situations similar to the Assad attacks in the future. Whether it be more airstrikes or more deployment of US troops in the region, the general pattern seems to be one of escalation, raising possibility of leading into a greater war that most Americans probably do not want.”
Syria’s key allies, Russia and Iran, have informed the international community that they will respond to further US aggression following Trump’s air strikes and condemned the flagrant aggression. US Senator John McClain even accused Russia of having cooperated with the Syrian government in the attack and knew about the plan before bombs struck. Officials said a drone operated by Russians was flying over the hospital where most victims were rushed into for treatment, and hours after the drone left the site, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what US officials believes was an attempt to cover up the use of chemical weapons. With the support from numerous leaders of the world, Trump’s direct response would mark the first time the US has directly targeted Assad’s forces.