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- Russia and Syria have blamed Israel for a deadly missile strike on a Syrian airfield.
- Russia said two Israeli F-15 planes struck the T-4 air base from Lebanese air space; Israel has not commented.
- Syrian state TV initially suggested that the US was behind the strike.
- Israel has previously struck Syrian army locations in attempts to hit Iranian-backed militias fighting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russia and Syria have accused Israel of carrying out a deadly strike on a Syrian military airfield.
Syrian state TV initially said the US may have been behind the attack on the Tayfur military air base, also known as T-4, in Homs early Monday morning.
At least 14 people died in the attack, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
President Donald Trump on Sunday had directly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad over a suspected poison-gas attack against the rebel-held town of Douma that local aid groups blamed on the Syrian government.
The US denied attacking the Syrian base, and France also said its forces had not carried it out.
The Russian military, whose forces are supporting Assad’s government, said two Israeli F-15 warplanes had struck the T-4 air base, the Interfax news agency reported.
Interfax cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that the Israeli warplanes had carried out the strikes from Lebanese airspace and that Syrian air-defense systems had shot down five of eight missiles fired.
Syrian state media, citing a military source, then carried a similar report. “The Israeli aggression on the T-4 airport was carried out with F-15 planes that fired several missiles from above Lebanese land,” the state news agency SANA said.
When asked earlier about explosions from the air base, an Israeli spokeswoman declined to comment. Israel had no immediate comment to the Syrian and Russian military charges.
- Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Israel has struck Syrian army locations many times during the Syrian civil war, hitting convoys and bases of Iranian-backed militias that fight alongside Assad’s forces.
Israel has accused Damascus of allowing Iran to set up a complex at the T-4 base to supply arms to its ally Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.
Syrian state TV, in its initial report, said there had been casualties in what it described as a suspected US missile attack on the T-4 airfield near Homs, close to the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria. The Pentagon denied the US was carrying out airstrikes in Syria at the time.
“However, we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable,” it said.
- Thomson Reuters
Defense analysts say there are large deployments of Russian forces at the T-4 base and jets fly regular sorties from there to strike rebel-held areas.
The Syrian state broadcaster said the strike left several dead and wounded.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitor, said at least 14 people were killed including some fighters of various nationalities, a reference to Iranian-backed Shiite militia members, mostly from Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran fighting alongside the Syrian army.
Reuters could not independently verify the report.
Trump points to Putin
- The White Helmets/Twitter
The Syrian opposition blamed the suspected chemical attack on Saturday in Douma on government forces.
As international officials worked to try to confirm that a chemical attack had taken place, Trump took the rare step of directly criticizing Putin, connecting him to the attack.
On Sunday, Trump suggested on Twitter that there would be a “big price” to pay after medical aid groups reported that dozens of civilians, including many children and women, were killed by poison gas in the besieged rebel-held town.
“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump said on Twitter. “Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay.”
The Syrian government denied its forces had launched a chemical assault, while Russia, Assad’s most powerful ally, called the reports fake and warned against military action on the basis of “invented and fabricated excuses.”
The Syrian government launched an air and ground assault on Douma, the last rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta district, on Friday.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Trump by telephone, and the two agreed to work together to establish clear responsibility for what Macron’s office said they had agreed was a chemical attack.
Macron said in February that “France will strike” in the event of lethal chemical attack on civilians by government forces in Syria. A French defense ministry official on Monday said France did not carry out an airstrike on the T-4 base.
The medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society and the civil-defense service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said in a joint statement that 49 people were killed in the suspected gas attack.
One video shared by activists showed bodies of about a dozen children, women, and men, some with foam at the mouth. “Douma city, April 7 … there is a strong smell here,” a voice can be heard saying.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
- Reuters/Bassam Khabieh
The US launched a cruise-missile strike on a Syrian air base a year ago in response to the killing of dozens of civilians in a sarin-gas attack in an opposition-held town in northwest Syria. The gas attack was blamed on Assad.
US government sources said Washington’s assessment of the Saturday attack was that chemical weapons were used. The European Union also said evidence pointed to the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces.
A European diplomat said Western allies would work on building a dossier based on photos, videos, witness testimony, and satellite images of Syrian flights and helicopters. Gaining access to samples on the ground, however, would be difficult.
The United Nations Security Council will meet twice Monday following rival requests by Russia and the US.
UN war-crimes investigators had previously documented 33 chemical attacks in Syria, attributing 27 to the Assad government, which has repeatedly denied using the weapons.