The United States launched a military strike on Syrian government targets in retaliation for their chemical weapon attack on civilians earlier in the week, CNN is told. On President Donald Trump’s orders, US warships launched 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The strikes are the first direct military action the US has taken against the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year civil war and represent a substantial escalation of the US’ military campaign in the region,

which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war. The US began launching airstrikes in Syria in September 2014 under President Barack Obama as part of its coalition campaign against ISIS, but has only targeted the terrorist group and not Syrian government forces. Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after hosting a dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrived the earlier Thursday for his first series of meetings with the US President. MORE