Beirut: Missiles struck an air base in central Syria early Monday, but the Pentagon quickly denied claims from Syrian state media that the strikes were “an American aggression.” As a war monitoring group said Iranian-backed militia members were killed in the strikes, Russia accused Israeli jets of firing the missiles.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said the missile attack on the T4 military air base in Homs province had resulted in a number of casualties. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 14 people were killed, including foreign nationals — an allusion to Iranian, or at least Iran-backed, fighters.
Russia’s allegation that two Israeli F-15s had fired a total of eight missiles at the T4 base came several hours after Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood said in a statement that the “Department of Defense is not conducting air strikes in Syria.”
U.N. to hold dual meetings about alleged Syria chemical attack
The missile attack followed a suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the last remaining foothold for the Syrian opposition in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. At least 40 people were killed, including families found in their homes and shelters, opposition activists and local rescuers said.
President Trump has promised a “big price to pay” for the suspected chemical attack and called Syrian President Bashar Assad an “animal” in tweets sent earlier Sunday:
Reports of the latest chemical attack, which appeared to target civilians and young children, could not be independently verified. The Syrian government denied the allegations, calling them fabrications.
Israel’s government did not confirm that it had carried out any strikes in Syria, but it has struck Assad’s forces and it’s Iranian allies inside the country before.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said Monday that “two F-15 aircraft of the Israeli Air Force, without entering Syrian airspace, struck eight controlled missiles at the airfield.” It said the missiles were fired from within Lebanese airspace, and that five of them were destroyed by Syria’s air defenses before landing.
Three missiles “reached the western part of the airfield,” according to the Russian military, which also has personnel in the area in support of Assad’s forces. No Russian “advisers” were hit in the early morning missile strike, according to Russia.
In the statement released early Monday morning, U.S. military spokesman Shewood said the Pentagon would “continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable.”
The U.S. launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in 2017 after a chemical attack in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people. Israel has also struck inside Syria in recent years.
The suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the besieged town of Douma came almost exactly a year after the U.S. missile attack prompted by the Khan Sheikhoun deaths.
First responders said they found families suffocated in their homes and shelters, with foam on their mouths. The opposition-linked Syrian Civil Defense were able to document 42 fatalities but were impeded from searching further by strong odors that gave their rescuers difficulties breathing, said Siraj Mahmoud, a spokesman for the group, which is known as the White Helmets.
“Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!” the president wrote.