The strike took place at 8:40 p.m. ET (3:40 a.m. local time), when there would be minimal activity at the base, and targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and "the things that make the airfield operate," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters. The missiles were launched from warships in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The strike is the first direct military action the U.S. has taken against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year civil war and represent a substantial escalation of the U.S.' military campaign in the region, which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.
"Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched," Trump said during short remarks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago, where he ordered the strike just hours earlier. "It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
He added: "There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically."
Trump's decision marked a dramatic shift in his position on whether the U.S. should take military action against the Syrian President's regime -- which Trump opposed during his campaign for president -- and came after the president was visibly and publicly moved by the images of this week's chemical weapons attack.
UNICEF confirmed at least 27 children being killed in the attack in Idlib, northwest of Syria.