Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Syrians, Russians accuse Israel of strike on air base

TIYAS BASE:A monitoring group said that at least 14 people were killed in the raid, which Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied Israel conducted

Reuters, AMMAN

Bodies of victims of an alleged chemical attack on Saturday lie on the ground on Sunday in rebel-held Douma, near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Syria and its main ally Russia blamed Israel for carrying out an attack on a Syrian air base near Homs yesterday that followed reports of a poison gas attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on a rebel-held town.

Israel, which has struck Syrian army locations many times in the course of its neighbor’s seven-year-old civil war, has not confirmed nor denied mounting the raid.

However, Israeli officials said the Tiyas (T-4) air base was being used by troops from Iran and that Israel would not accept such a presence in Syria by its archfoe.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 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.

The attack took place hours after US President Donald Trump warned of a “big price to pay” following the reports of a poison gas attack on the rebel-held town of Douma on Saturday, which killed dozens of people, including children.

Trump referred in a Tweet to “Animal Assad” and criticized Russia and Iran for backing the Syrian leader, directly naming Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Damascus denied its forces had launched any chemical assault and Russian Minister of Foreign Affars Sergei Lavrov said such allegations were false and a provocation.

Syrian state TV initially said the US was suspected of carrying out the attack on T-4.

Washington denied this, and France, which in February had said it would strike in the event of a chemical weapon attack on civilians by Syrian government forces, also said its forces were not involved.

The Russian military said two Israeli F-15 warplanes carried out the strike.

Interfax news agency cited the Russian Ministry of Defense as saying Syrian air defense systems had shot down five of eight missiles fired.

Syrian state media, citing a military source, 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 Syrian Arab News Agency said.

As international officials worked to try to confirm Saturday’s chemical attack on Douma, a Syria medical relief group said at least 60 people had been killed there and more than 1,000 injured in several sites.

The toll is likely to rise, said the Union of Medical Care Organizations (UOSSM), a group of international aid agencies.

“The numbers keep rising as relief workers struggle to gain access to the subterranean areas where gas has entered and hundreds of families had sought refuge,” the group said.

The Syrian American Medical Society and the civil defense service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said 49 people had been killed in the suspected gas attack.

The Syrian opposition blamed the suspected chemical attack on government forces, who launched a combined assault on Douma, the last rebel-held town in the eastern Ghouta District, on Friday.

One video shared by activists showed bodies of about a dozen children, women and men, some with foam at the mouth, but those reports have not been verified.

US government sources said Washington’s assessment of Saturday’s attack was that chemical weapons were used, while the EU also said evidence pointed to the use of chemical weapons by al-Assad’s forces.

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