World leaders unite behind Trump after Syria strikes

59 Tomahawk missiles were fired into Syria overnight

World leaders unite behind Trump after Syria strikes

US President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the Oval Office of the White House in January | Image: Olivier Douliery/DPA/PA Images

Several world leaders are expressing support for United States airstrikes against Syria following a chemical weapon attack.

The US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria in what it called "retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad" using nerve agents to attack his own people.

At least 80 people were killed in the attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4th.

President Donald Trump ordered the attack on Al-Shayrat Air Base, the base from which the US says the chemical attack on Idlib province was launched.

The missiles were launched from US Navy ships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The US Department of Defence says aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defence systems, and radars were all targeted.

Six people were killed in the operation, the Syrian army said.

"Proportionate and targeted"

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the development. He also confirmed Australia was consulted before the strikes were launched.

"This was a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response.

It sends a strong message to the Assad regime and...has been struck at the very airfield from which the chemical attack was delivered.

"Australia was not involved in the strike but we remain fully committed as a coalition partner to our ongoing military operations in Iraq and Syria.

"We have been consistent in our condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere.

"We are in close discussions with our allies on the next steps.

"This is a vitally important signal, a vitally important message, that we will not tolerate, the world will not tolerate the use of these chemical weapons.

The retribution has been proportionate and it has been swift. We support the United States in that swift action", Mr Turnbull said.

"Full responsibility"

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: "The Syrian regime bears the full responsibility for this development.

"NATO has consistently condemned Syria's continued use of chemical weapons as a clear breach of international norms and agreements.

"Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, cannot go unanswered, and those responsible must be held accountable.

"NATO considers the use of chemical weapons as a threat to international peace and security."

The organisation says it supports "all international efforts" aimed at achieving peace and a political solution in Syria.

UK government support

A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said: "Overnight, the US has taken military action against the Syrian regime, targeting the airfield in Shayrut which was used to launch the chemical weapons attack earlier this week.

"The UK government fully supports the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks."

US President Donald Trump speaks after the US fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria | Image: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

France and Germany

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on the phone following the airstrikes.

In a joint statement released by the Élysée Palace, the leaders said: "Assad is entirely responsible for this development.

"His continued recourse of using chemical weapons and committing mass crimes cannot go unpunished."

The two leaders are calling on the international community to unite against Syria, in accordance with the United Nations Security Council and the Geneva Convention.

Russia meanwhile has called for the UN Security Council to meet following the airstrikes.

Google spike

However it seems members of the public were a bit more skeptical.

There was a spike in Google searches just 2.00am asking: "Did Trump attack Syria".

While a similar spike was seen in searches asking "Did Trump declare war on Syria".

Other top searches included "Attack on Syria" and "Trump Syria chemical attack".

Source: Google

It marks a change in tactic for the US president on whether it should take military action against the Syrian regime.

President Trump opposed any such action during his presidential campaign.

He criticised then-President Barack Obama for even considering such a move, tweeting: "There is no upside and tremendous downside".

Support from lawmakers

It is thought lawmakers generally supported Mr Trump's decision to strike against Assad.

But they also cautioned him against unilaterally starting a conflict without first consulting Congress. Any declaration of war would have to be approved by them.

The US Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war.

It has declared war on 11 occasions - including its first declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812.

Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II.

The last time the power was officially evoked was in 1942, with a declaration of war with Rumania.