Israel blamed for missile strike in Syria

China Daily
Huang Panyue

14 people killed; Lebanon army says warplanes violated air space

DAMASCUS - The Syrian army said Israeli F-15 warplanes had carried out an attack on the T-4 air base in central Syria before daybreak on Monday by firing missiles from Lebanese airspace, according to state television.

The Israeli warplanes fired several rockets from inside Lebanon and targeted the air base in Homs province.

The Syrian air defenses responded to the attack, destroying several rockets but a number reached their target.

The Lebanese army said four Israeli warplanes violated Lebanon's air space, flying from the Mediterranean Sea over the coastal town of Jounieh and then heading east, toward the city of Baalbek near the Syrian border.

A statement from the Lebanese Armed Forces said the warplanes stayed in Lebanese airspace for about 10 minutes, starting at 3:25 am on Monday before leaving it.

Israel's Foreign Ministry had no comment when asked about the accusations.

The attack came before daybreak on Monday and was initially thought to have been carried out by the United States, which has recently threatened retaliation against the Syrian army over allegations made by the rebels about the use of chlorine gas in a recent attack on the Douma district, the last rebel-held area in eastern Ghouta.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of 14 people were killed in the missile strike.

State media outlets said several loud explosions were heard early on Monday near the airfield in the eastern countryside of Homs. It was later confirmed to be a missile attack targeting the military facility.

US Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood denied the report in a statement, saying the US Department of Defense "is not conducting airstrikes in Syria at this time".

The attack came amid an international wrangling about the allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army in the attack on the rebels in Douma district.

The pro-rebel Ghouta Media Center has claimed that nerve agent sarin and chlorine gas have been used in Syrian army's recent offensive in Douma, which has caused civilians to suffocate and choke.

A 'big price'

The Syrian government has strongly denied possessing chemical weapons, saying such allegations were fabricated to deliberately frame the government forces.

Western countries, such as the US and Britain, have warned that they would respond with military action if the Syrian army is proven to have used chemical weapons in its attacks.

US President Donald Trump on Sunday promised that a "big price" would be paid for what he called a chemical weapons attack on Douma on Saturday.

Douma is the last rebel-held area in Ghouta. Earlier, the rebels of the Islam Army in the area backed down on an agreement they had concluded with the Damascus t and Moscow on their evacuation from Douma and refused to release kidnapped people from its prisons.

But on Sunday, the Islam Army agreed to evacuate after a weekslong military operation by government forces and released the first batch of kidnapped people from its prisons.

Also, buses transporting Islam Army rebels and their families have gathered at the assembly point in the Wafideen area northeast of Damascus to prepare to leave for the rebel-held city of Jarablus in northern Syria.

Monday's missile strike is not the first foreign attack against Syria, as the US targeted the Shayrat air base in the countryside of Homs in April last year to punish alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army on a rebel-held area in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Israel has also carried out several attacks on Syria air bases on the pretext of targeting positions of the Iranians and the Hezbollah group.


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