U.S. denies attack on Syrian military base, blame shifts toward Israel

Syrian state TV said on Monday the United States was suspected of striking an air base hours after U.S. President Donald Trump warned of a “big price to pay” as aid groups said dozens of people were killed by poison gas in a rebel-held town over the weekend.

The United States denied attacking the Syrian base.

“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.”

France has also denied launching any air strikes. 

When asked about the explosions, an Israeli spokeswoman declined to comment. Israel has struck Syrian army locations many times in the course of the conflict, hitting convoys and bases of Iranian-backed militias that fight alongside Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces.

Hours later, the Russian Defence Ministry said the Israeli Air Force launched eight missiles at the Syrian base and five were shot down by Syria. 

Syrian state TV also reported, citing a military source, blamed Israel for the attack. 

“The Israeli aggression on the T-4 airport was carried out with F-15 planes that fired several missiles from above Lebanese land,” state news agency SANA said.

Syrian state TV said there were casualties in what it called a suspected U.S. missile attack on the T-4 airfield near Homs, which is close to the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria.

“An aggression was perpetrated on T-4 air base in several strikes that is most likely to be an American attack,” state television said in a news flash.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 people were killed in the attack, most of whom were Iranians or members of Iran-backed groups.

A Syrian military source was quoted as saying air defences shot down eight missiles fired at the base.

Defence analysts say there are large deployments of Russian forces at the base, and jets fly regular sorties from there to strike rebel-held areas.

The Syrian state broadcaster said there were several dead and wounded in the strike.

Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition blamed the Saturday’s suspected chemical attack in the town of Douma on government forces.

As international officials worked to try to confirm the chemical attack, Trump took the rare step of directly criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with the incident.

Trump said on Sunday there would be a “big price to pay” after medical aid groups reported dozens of civilians, including many children and women, were killed by poison gas in the besieged rebel-held town of Douma.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. 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,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The Syrian government denied its forces had launched any chemical assault. Russia, Assad’s most powerful ally, called the reports fake.

The Russian Foreign Ministry warned against military action on the basis of “invented and fabricated excuses.”

UN security council meeting

The medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the civil defence service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said in a joint statement 49 people had been killed in the suspected gas attack.

The United States 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.

U.S. 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.

The UN Security Council will meet twice on Monday following rival requests by Russia and the United States.

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.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News