US releases flight path of plane used in Syria chemical attack

PHOTO: A Syrian man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, in Syrias Idlib province, April 5, 2017.
PlayOmar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images
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The Pentagon has released a graphic detailing the flight path of a Syrian aircraft used to attack civilians with chemical weapons earlier this week.

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Tuesday's attack at the hands of the Syrian regime in the city of Khan Shaykhun left at least 86 civilians dead, and prompted the U.S. military to strike Shayrat air base on Thursday night with 59 tomahawk missiles.

Officials decided to declassify the photo to prove that Syria's Shayrat air base was linked to the chemical attack, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesperson said Thursday night.

PHOTO: A Pentagon spokesperson says that this graphic shows the flight track of an aircraft that took off from Shayrat airbase to the location of an alleged chemical weapons airstrike in Khan Shaykhun, Syria on April 4, 2017.

The flight path appears to have taken a northerly track from the Shayrat airbase near Homs towards Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib province. According to the graphic released by the Pentagon, the plane appears to have circled the area around Khan Shaykhun and the area between the two cities multiple times.

U.S. officials said earlier that radar systems had tracked two aircraft taking off from the base, and that one dropped munitions containing Sarin gas that targeted an underground hospital run by the al Qaeda-affiliated rebel group formerly known as the al-Nusra Front.

The death toll from the Syrian regime's chemical attack included at least 30 children and 20 women, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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PHOTO: A map shows the location of Shayrat Air Base in Syria.

"Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces," Davis said in a statement. "The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4."

"The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again," Davis continued.

Turkey's health ministry said on Thursday that Sarin gas was used in Tuesday's attack on civilians, while a U.S. official told ABC News that the victim's symptoms were consistent with exposure to sarin gas.

PHOTO: USS Ross (DDG 71) an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer at sea in 2016. US Navy, file
USS Ross (DDG 71) an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer at sea in 2016.

Sarin gas is a nerve agent banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and were aimed at aircraft, aircraft hangars, ammunition depots, petroleum and logistical storage facilities, radar and air defense systems, Davis said.

The runways at the airfield were not a target of the airstrikes, said Davis, noting that they can be easily repaired.

The White House initially said the attack was the result of the Obama administration's "weakness and irresolution."