No fewer than 50 cruise missiles has been launched by the United States into central Syria, striking an Assad government-controlled air base from where America says the Syrian military initiated a deadly chemical attack that killed dozens of US civilians this week.

About 60 US Tomahawk missiles hit the Shayrat air base south east of Homs – a small installation with two runways, where aircraft often take off to bomb targets in northern and central Syria.

The US missiles struck at 3.45am on Friday, Syria time, and targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, American officials said.

They were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for Tuesday’s deadly chemical attack that officials said used chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin.

The UK Government has said today that the US missile strike on a Syrian air base is an ‘appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime’.

A military official quoted on Syrian TV said an air base in central Syria was hit early on Friday, causing material damage. Another statement, also attributed to an unnamed official, referred to ‘losses’.

A Syrian opposition group, the Syrian Coalition, welcomed the US attack, saying it put an end to an age of ‘impunity’ and should be just the beginning.

Major Jamil al-Saleh commander of US-backed opposition rebel group the Alezzah Army, whose district was among those hit by chemical weapons, said he hoped the American assault would be a ‘turning point’ in the six-year war.

The bombing represents US president Donald Trump’s most dramatic military order since taking office.