April 09, 2018
Pentagon denies involvement in airstrikes after Trump said Assad regime would ‘pay’ for chemical attack on rebel-held town
Syria: missiles hit Homs airbase amid outrage over Douma attack
A Syrian regime airbase east of the city of Homs has been bombed two days after a chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town outside Damascus drew international outrage.
Syrian state TV reported loud explosions near the T-4 airfield in the desert east of Homs in the early hours of Monday. It said the airfield was targeted with several missiles and that Syrian air defence was responding and had shot down eight incoming missiles.
It was unclear who had carried out the airstrikes, but state TV said the attack was “most likely” American, a claim the Pentagon has denied.
Video footage on social media in Lebanon showed aircraft or missiles flying low over the country, apparently heading east towards Syria. At least 14 people, mostly Iranians or members of Iran-backed groups, were killed, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Donald Trump warned on Sunday that the regime and its backers would pay a “high price” for the use of chemical weapons in the attack on rebel-held Douma that killed 42 people. However, the Pentagon denied US forces were involved in Monday’s strikes.
“At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting airstrikes in Syria,” a Pentagon spokesman said. “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.”
Separately, the White House put out an account of a telephone conversation between Trump and Emmanuel Macron, in which the US and French presidents “agreed to exchange information on the nature of the attacks and coordinate a strong, joint response”.
Macron has said chemical weapons attacks in Syria would cross a “red line” for France and that French forces would strike if the regime was proven to have been involved. However, the French army denied responsibility for Monday’s attack.
There was also speculation that Israel could be behind the attack. It launched airstrikes against the T-4 base in February, claiming that an Iranian drone launched from the airfield had flown into Israel. When asked about the explosions, an Israeli spokeswoman declined to comment.
T-4, also known as Tiyas, halfway between Homs and the ancient ruins of Palmyra, has been used by the Russian air force, but it is unclear whether Russian aircraft were at the base when it came under attack.
The UN security council is scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss Saturday’s chemical weapons attack in Douma.
Aid workers and local medics described apocalyptic scenes as they scrambled to save the survivors of Syria’s latest atrocity.
Many of the dead had had been sheltering in the basement of a building that was struck by a projectile shortly after 7.30pm. Ill-equipped local doctors said they treated patients for suffocation, foaming at the mouth, dilated pupils and burned eyes.
The attack was only the latest salvo in a massive bombardment that began on Friday night and lasted until Sunday morning, to pressure local rebels and the opposition to leave the city, surrounded by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad.
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