Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said U.S.-led missile strikes launched Friday night in Syria were “directed at the Syrian regime” and have “sent a clear message” to President Bashar Assad and his “murderous lieutenants.”
Mr. Mattis said he is “absolutely confident” that Mr. Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, killing dozens last week in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
Mr. Mattis said the missiles targeted several chemical weapons sites. He did not rule out further attacks.
Mr. Mattis spoke Friday night after President Trump announced that the U.S., France and Britain launched airstrikes to punish Mr. Assad and to deter him from further use of chemical weapons.
Mr. Mattis said coalition forces have “gone to great lengths to avoid civilians and foreign casualties, and he called on “responsible nations” to join in condemning the Assad regime.
Syrian state television reported explosions near the capital and said Assad-backed forces shot down more than a dozen missiles.
Russia’s U.S. Ambassador said the attack “will not be left without consequences.”
“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened,” Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said on Twitter. “We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said missiles hit three sites, including the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, a government body responsible for research and development of advanced weapons systems.
“The second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, we access that this was the primary location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment,” Mr. Dunford said.
The last target was a military command post and chemical weapons storage facility.
Mr. Dunford would not describe the military assets that were deployed but added that, “this wave of air strikes is over.”
A highly placed Russian politician likened Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler after the airstrikes, and said he regards the action as a move against Russia.
Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee, said Mr. Trump “can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time — because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union,” according to state news agency RIA-Novosti.
The Nazi forces’ opening attack against the USSR in 1941 was launched around 4 a.m.
• This story is based in part on Associated Press dispatches.