Minute by minute
The chemical weapons that rained down on a small Syrian village early Tuesday set in motion a remarkable 63 hours during which President Donald Trump considered and eventually ordered the first use of military force in his young presidency. Here is a timeline of those hours:
Early morning, Tuesday, April 4
Bombs fall on Khan Sheikhoun, in the rebel-held territory of Idlib Province. Video of the attack shows women and young children gasping for breath and foaming at the mouth as they fought the effects of what officials later said was sarin gas.
10 a.m., Tuesday
Trump huddles at the White House with his military and national security advisers for an extensive briefing on the chemical weapons attack.
The first public evidence of the president's concern comes from Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who reads a statement condemning the Syrian government. He also places blame on former President Barack Obama for failing to strike the regime in 2013. The attacks, Spicer says, are "not something that any civilized nation should sit back and accept or tolerate." But he does not demand that President Bashar Assad step down.
Morning, Wednesday, April 5
Intelligence and military officials continue to investigate, giving them confidence that Assad is responsible.
Trump makes his first public remarks about Syria, telling reporters that the attacks are unspeakable. Asked by a reporter whether he planned to take action with regard to Syria, Trump says: "You will see."
1:15 p.m., Wednesday
At a news conference in the White House Rose Garden after a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, Trump says his horror at the images of "innocent children, innocent babies" choked by poison gas in the attack have led him to reassess his approach to Syria. "It crossed a lot of lines for me," he says. "When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies, with a chemical gas."
Trump convenes a meeting of his National Security Council. The president's top military and national security aides present him with three options for action in Syria.
12:05 p.m., Thursday
Trump's motorcade pulls out of the White House, headed for Air Force One and then a summit meeting with President Xi Jinping of China at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. On the plane, Spicer fields questions from reporters traveling with Trump about the possibility of military action in Syria.
2 p.m., Thursday
With Trump still in the air, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lands in Florida to greet Xi. Pressed on Syria, Tillerson tells reporters, "We are considering an appropriate response for this chemical weapons attack. A serious matter requires a serious response."
2:45 p.m., Thursday
Air Force One lands in Palm Beach and the president is whisked to Mar-a-Lago. Trump heads into a meeting with his National Security Council. By this point, the military options have been winnowed to a Tomahawk cruise missile strike at Shayrat airfield in Syria. U.S. intelligence has tracked the planes that carried out the attacks and determined that they had departed from and returned to that base.
7:10 p.m., Thursday
From a phone line in a small room at the sprawling Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the U.S. air war command for the region, U.S. commanders begin giving Russian counterparts advance warning of an imminent strike at the airfield, in compliance with a "deconfliction" agreement with Moscow to try to prevent disasters between the two countries in the air.
8:40 p.m., Thursday
At 3:40 a.m. local time in Syria, two U.S. destroyers — the USS Porter and the USS Ross — are in position in the eastern Mediterranean. They fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at the airfield. The cruise missile strike targets aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, radars, air defense systems, ammunition bunkers and fuel storage sites.
9:15 p.m., Thursday
Trump assembles his national security team and other top advisers in a secure room at Mar-a-Lago. On a secure video screen are Vice President Mike Pence; Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
9:43 p.m., Thursday
Trump announces the strikes, calling them in the "vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
New York Times