14 killed in Syria airbase attack, Israel blamed

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Damascus, April 9 (IANS) At least 14 people were killed on Monday in an airbase attack in central Syria, which the Assad regime and Russia blamed on Israel, according to media reports.

“The Syrian air defences have confronted an Israeli missile attack on T-4 airport and shot down eight missiles,” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted a military source as saying.

The source said the missiles were fired from the Lebanese airspace by Israeli F-15 fighter jets, However, the news agency did not comment on the number of casualties, saying “There were martyrs and wounded.”

UK-based war monitor group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Iranians were among 14 dead at the base.

Initially the news agency said it was likely “an American aggression”. But following a denial by the US, the Russian military and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime accused Israel of carrying out the attack.

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US officials said that “Washington did not launch the Monday strike”. “At this time, the Department of Defence is not conducting air strikes in Syria,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“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. France also issued a denial.

Israel, which has previously hit Syrian targets, has not commented. The target of the missile strike was the Tiyas airbase — also known as the T-4 airbase — near the city of Homs.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said that of the eight missiles, five were shot down and three reached the western part of the aerodrome.

The incident came amid international alarm over an alleged chemical attack on Syrian rebel-held town Douma on Saturday. The US and France threatened to respond to the attack in the Eastern Ghouta.

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US President Donald Trump said there would be a “big price to pay” over the alleged chemical strike and branded Assad an “animal”.

Meanwhile, the last rebel fighters in Douma surrendered and were being bussed out of the enclave after reaching a deal with the government, Syria’s state TV said.

Trump and France’s President Emmanuel Macron issued a joint statement vowing to “co-ordinate a strong, joint response” to the chemical strike.

Trump also slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tehran for supporting “animal Assad”.

Last April, the US launched Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase after Washington and others accused Assad’s forces of perpetrating a deadly chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun that killed 80 people, which the Syrian military denied.

In Saturday’s attack, toxic gas inside barrel bombs were dropped from helicopters over Douma that killed over 70 civilians, said the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, which runs medical facilities in the Eastern Ghouta

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Images showed people, including children, apparently dead and injured with some kind of spittle or foam in their mouths in makeshift centres. The authenticity of the images could not be immediately confirmed.

–IANS

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