‘Syria hit by new mis­sile at­tacks’

The Philippine Star - - WORLD -

BEIRUT (AP) — Syr­ian gov­ern­ment-run me­dia said the coun­try’s air de­fenses con­fronted a new “ag­gres­sion,” shoot­ing down mis­siles over the cen­tral re­gion of Homs and a sub­urb of Da­m­as­cus early yes­ter­day.

The re­ports did not say who car­ried out the pre-dawn strikes, which were re­ported by Syr­ian state TV and the gov­ern­ment-run Syr­ian Cen­tral

Me­dia. The re­ports, how­ever, were not car­ried by the of­fi­cial news agency SANA on its web­site.

The re­ports came just a few days af­ter the United States, Britain and France con­ducted airstrikes tar­get­ing al­leged chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties in Syria, in re­tal­i­a­tion for a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack that they blamed on the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment.

The Pen­tagon de­nied any Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity in the area yes­ter­day. There was no com­ment from Is­rael, which fre­quently car­ries out airstrikes in Syria but rarely ac­knowl­edges them.

The Syr­ian Cen­tral Me­dia said six mis­siles tar­geted the Shayrat air base in Homs, adding that Syr­ian air de­fenses shot down most of them. Pre­vi­ously, the same air base was hit by US Tom­a­hawk mis­siles in April last year, in re­tal­i­a­tion for a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack in the coun­try’s north that killed around 90 peo­ple.

The Syr­ian out­let also re­ported an­other, sep­a­rate airstrike on the Du­mayr air base, in a sub­urb of the cap­i­tal, Da­m­as­cus.

Ear­lier this month, four Ira­nian mil­i­tary per­son­nel were killed in an airstrike on Syria’s T4 air base, also in Homs. Syria and its main al­lies Iran and Rus­sia blamed Is­rael for that at­tack. Is­rael did not con­firmed or deny mount­ing the raid.

Ex­perts from the in­ter­na­tional chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog are now in Da­m­as­cus and have been wait­ing to visit the site of the sus­pected chem­i­cal at­tack in the town of Douma, just east of Da­m­as­cus.

On Mon­day, Syr­ian and Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties pre­vented in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons from go­ing to the scene, the head of the OPCW said, block­ing in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to es­tab­lish what hap­pened and who was to blame.

The US and France say they have ev­i­dence that poi­son gas was used in the April 7 at­tack in Douma, killing at least 40 peo­ple, and that Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s mil­i­tary was be­hind it.

But they have made none of that ev­i­dence pub­lic, even af­ter they, along with Britain, car­ried out airstrikes on Satur­day, bomb­ing sites they said were linked to Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram.

Syria and its ally Rus­sia deny any chem­i­cal at­tack took place, and Rus­sian of­fi­cials went even fur­ther, ac­cus­ing Britain of stag­ing a “fake” chem­i­cal at­tack. Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May ac­cused the two coun­tries — whose forces now con­trol the town east of Da­m­as­cus — of try­ing to cover up ev­i­dence.

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