A snapshot on Friday night recorded a 2,000 percent increase in Russian troll activity overall, according to Tyler Q. Houlton, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. One known Russian bot, #SyriaStrikes, had a 4,443 percent increase in activity while another, #Damsucs, saw a 2,800 percent jump, Mr. Houlton said.
In hitting the Barzah Research and Development Center, a chemical weapons research lab in greater Damascus, and two storage facilities and bunkers near Homs, Pentagon officials insisted that they dealt a critical blow to Mr. Assad’s weapons program. But Friday night’s strike, delivered via 105 missiles, was not quite double the 59 missiles used last year when Mr. Trump ordered the military to strike a Syrian airfield from which planes engaged in another chemical weapons attack took off.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pushed hard to limit the strikes to proven weapons facilities in the hopes that a more limited strike would not prompt retaliation from Russia.
The lab at Barzah, in Damascus, was on the receiving end of the biggest barrage — some 76 missiles, a combination of Tomahawk cruise missiles and Joint air-to-surface missiles. The rest of the bombs — 29, fired by American, French and British warplanes — struck and destroyed the Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage facility near Homs, and the Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker facility around five miles away.
Syria tried to hit back, but by the time its air defense system was deployed, the American warplanes were on their way home and the war ships had completed their mission, military officials said. They disputed Syrian claims to have shot down dozens of American missiles.
“We assess that over 40 surface-to-air missiles were employed by the Syrian regime,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, told reporters on Saturday. “Most of these launches occurred after the last impact of our strike was over.”
He called the Syrian retaliatory missiles “largely ineffective” and said they “clearly increased risk to their own people based on their indiscriminate response — when you shoot iron into the sky without guidance, it will inevitably fall to earth.”