Syrian warplanes took off from the same airbase hit by US missiles on Friday to carry out bombing raids on rebel-held areas, including the town targeted in a chemical attack.
The aircraft took off from inside the Shayrat base just hours after the US strike and struck targets in the eastern Homs countryside, according to a a monitoring group.
The Syrian airstrikes were carried out on Khan Sheikhoun – the same town Bashar al-Assad is accused of attacking with chemicals – and seven other towns.
The aircraft targeted territory controlled by the Islamic State jihadist group, which holds parts of the central Syrian province of Homs.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war using sources on the ground, could not specify whether they were Syrian or Russian planes, but said they were Sukhoi jets, which both Damascus and its ally Moscow use.
There were no reported injuries in Khan Sheikhoun but at least 10 people were killed in Hish, while a woman and two children died in Irbin, the Daily Beast reports.
The news came as images from the US Department of Defense showed how 59 powerful missiles obliterated the airfield that was allegedly being used by Bashar al-Assad’s regime to mount chemical attacks.
Observers said al-Sharyat Air Base was ‘almost completely destroyed’ by the 1,000lb warheads in a 30-minute barrage of destruction that is said to have destroyed 20 planes, a dozen aircraft hangars and a fuel depot, as well as ripped up runways.
The missiles were launched from US destroyers 150 miles away in the Mediterranean Sea in response to Assad’s Sarin gas attack in Idlib on Tuesday, which killed 80 civilians, including children.
But while the US and a number of its allies say the attack was justified, it has enraged Russia, which backs Assad’s regime.
Footage and photos from the ground Friday morning showed some of the aircraft shelters – which appear to be made of thick concrete, with feet of sand piled on top – partially or fully collapsed.
Others had sunlight shining in through holes in their roofs, and black scorch marks on their walls.
‘Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons,’ said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.
Two senior defense officials told Fox News that about 20 Syrian jets were destroyed in the strike, although footage screened on Russian television suggested that at least two had escaped the destruction.
Early reports put the figure at nine destroyed jets.
The US officials said that none of the planes had been able to scramble before missiles hit, and that no Russian aircraft were at the airfield. No helicopters were struck during the destruction, they said.
When asked why Russian TV footage showed an undamaged shelter and two apparently intact jets, an expert told CNN that the US had been precise in its targeting due to the size of the airfield so as not to waste missiles, and so not every area would be accounted for.
Syria claimed that at least seven of its soldiers were killed and nine wounded in the airstrike. According to US intel, there were 12-100 personnel on the site that night. Efforts were made not to hit barracks, officials said.
SANA, Syria’s state media, also claimed that nine civilians, including four children, were killed – even though the airbase was attacked at 3:45am local time.
The satellite photos show a considerable distance between the base’s perimeter and the nearest built-up area.
The US said that only one of its missiles failed to land on-target after being launched by the USS Ross and USS Porter, although Russians released their own counter-claims, saying that only 23 of the 59 rockets hit the base.
But the photos released by the Department of Defense suggest that that the missiles – at least, the ones involved in the damage seen in the satellite images – were closely clustered around the aircraft hangars.
The US said the base was being used to store chemical weapons, like those used on civilians in the city of Idlib on Tuesday.
That attack, which killed 80 civilians and injured many more, was the fourth such atrocity in Syria since the conflict began in 2011. One chemical attack has been blamed on ISIS and the other three on Syrian forces.
An hour after the US missiles hit the base, Trump, speaking from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where he is hosting the Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng as part of a two day summit, said the US had to act after the Syrian dictator launched the ‘horrible chemical weapons attack’ on innocent civilians.
‘Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack,’ he said. ‘It was a slow and brutal death for so many. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.’
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 UN security council.
‘Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.
‘As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.
‘Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.’
He also ordered his Admiral Grigorovich frigate – armed with cruise missiles and a self-defense system – from the Black Sea to dock in-between the Syrian mainland and the US ships that launched the attack.
Russia has also said it will further strengthen Syrian air defenses.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin regarded the US action as ‘aggression against a sovereign nation’ on a ‘made-up pretext’ and as a cynical attempt to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq.
Russia’s foreign minister says no Russian servicemen have been hurt in the bombing raid. Its security council said it regretted the ‘harm’ done to relations between Washington and Moscow.
The country also demanded a special meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss what it called ‘aggression against a sovereign state’.
The meeting, called by Bolivia on Friday afternoon, saw Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Lorenti denouncing the United States as acting like ‘investigator, attorney, judge and executioner’.
The US was defended by France and Britain.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft praised President Trump’s decision, saying the attack was ‘an appropriate response to such a heinous crime, a war crime.’
And French Ambassador Francois Delattre expressed hope the US action would be a ‘game changer and help boost the political negotiations’.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged restraint and a renewed push for peace in Syria, saying in a statement that ‘there is no other way to solve the conflict than through a political solution’.
He said: ‘For too long, international law has been ignored in the Syrian conflict, and it is our shared duty to uphold international standards of humanity. This is a prerequisite to ending the unrelenting suffering of the people of Syria.’
The US was also branded ‘a partner of ISIS’ by al-Assad’s spokesman, calling the missile strikes ‘reckless and irresponsible.’
He also accused Trump of ‘naively falling’ for a ‘false propaganda campaign’ about the Idlib Sarin massacre.
A Pentagon official told DailyMail.com that the president ‘is dead-set against letting Assad labor under the illusion that the Syrian army can murder innocent people with impunity.’
A Syrian military source also claimed on Friday that Syria had already ‘learned of the American threat’ and that precautions were taken – but it did not say how they found out, or from whom.
‘We took precautions in more than one military point, including in the Shayrat airbase. We moved a number of airplanes towards other areas,’ the official said, adding they were forewarned ‘hours’ before the strike.
Those claims were belied by photographs and video that emerged Friday showing burned out planes underneath the targeted shelters.
Some planes – several of which had apparently been left out in the open air, at least two of which were still in shelters – were undamaged but on the base.
America had used a special military-to-military hotline to warn Russia about the airstrike around 30 minutes in advance – but the Trump administration did not ask Moscow for permission.
It is likely Russia alerted the Syrians about the incoming strikes but this has not been confirmed.
The US has been supported by some of its foreign allies.
In a joint statement on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said, ‘President Assad bears sole responsibility for this development.
Hollande added that the US strike was what France had been calling for in the wake of another chemical attack in 2013.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking alongside German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, added that they hoped this would not spiral into further conflict.
‘We do not want an escalation,’ Ayrault said. ‘We have to stop the hypocrisy. If Russia is acting in good faith it should stop and negotiate.’
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said: ‘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.’
EU President Donald Tusk said in a tweet that ‘US strikes show needed resolve against barbaric chemical attacks. EU will work with the US to end brutality in Syria.’
And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that ‘in both word and action’ Trump ‘sent a strong and clear message’ that ‘the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.’
Predictably, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was less enthused.
He took to Twitter on Friday to denounce the strikes, saying: ‘Not even two decades after 9/11, US military fighting on same side as al-Qaeda & ISIS in Yemen & Syria. Time to stop hype and cover-ups.’
And Iranian news agency ISNA quoted foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying: ‘Such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria… and will complicate the situation in Syria and the region.’
Iran is a long-time supporter of the Assad regieme.
There has also been debate at home, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle complained that the Commander in Chief had authorized military action without consulting Congress.
‘The President needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate,’ said Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Libertarians such as Representative Justin Amash, a House Freedom Caucus member, want to stick tightly to the Constitution, which he argued on Twitter had been violated by Trump’s actions.
‘Airstrikes are an act of war’ he wrote. ‘Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war.’
He continued: ‘Framers of Constitution divided war powers to prevent abuse,’ he wrote. ‘Congress to declare war; President to conduct war and repel sudden attacks.’
Nancy Pelosi, the House’s top-ranking Democrat, begged House Speaker Paul Ryan in a letter Friday morning to call back House members to DC as they begin their two-week Passover and Easter recess.
‘The President’s action and any response demands that we immediately do our duty. Congress must live up to its Constitutional responsibility to debate an Authorization of the Use of Military Force against a sovereign nation,’ Pelosi said.