Syria and Rus­sia con­demn Is­raeli airstrike

The Guardian Weekly - - International news - Ju­lian Borger Ka­reem Sha­heen

Is­raeli war­planes bombed a Syr­ian regime air­base east of the city of Homs, the Rus­sian and Syr­ian mil­i­taries have said. The Rus­sian mil­i­tary said two Is­raeli F-15 jets car­ried out the strikes from Le­banese airspace, and Syr­ian air de­fence sys­tems shot down five of eight mis­siles fired.

Syr­ian state TV re­ported loud ex­plo­sions near the T-4 air­field in the desert east of Homs in the early hours of Mon­day. It ini­tially re­ported that 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.

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.

Con­cerned by the per­ma­nent sta­tion­ing of Ira­nian-backed troops on its bor­der, Is­rael has a track record of con­duct­ing in­de­pen­dent strikes in­side Syria, largely with tacit rather than ex­plicit US sup­port. It pre­vi­ously launched airstrikes against the T-4 base in Fe­bru­ary, claim­ing that an Ira­nian drone launched from the air­field had flown into Is­rael.

Of most con­cern to Is­raeli mil­i­tary of­fi­cials is what they be­lieve are Ira­nian ef­forts to fix ad­vanced guid­ance sys­tems to rudi­men­tary rock­ets, some of which are des­tined for Hezbol­lah in Le­banon. Is­rael was dis­mayed by Don­ald Trump’s an­nounce­ment last week that he in­tended to with­draw US troops from Syria. The Is­raeli prime min­is­ter, Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu,

re­gards US in­volve­ment as the best guar­an­tee that Ira­nian in­flu­ence in Syria can be curbed.

Though re­main­ing a strong ally, se­nior Is­raeli of­fi­cials have come to view the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion as chaotic and un­re­li­able, in­ca­pable of ar­tic­u­lat­ing a pol­icy in Syria. Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials be­lieve that tor­por in the state de­part­ment and Pen­tagon – where bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ships with Is­rael have long been strong­est – and unchecked volatil­ity in the White House have forced Is­rael to act solely in its own in­ter­ests in Syria. Is­rael in­sists that regime change is not a goal, un­less that is caught up in the pri­mary goal of weak­en­ing Iran.

Last Sun­day Trump said the Syr­ian regime and its back­ers would pay a “high price” for the use of chem­i­cal weapons in an at­tack rebel-held Douma that killed 42 peo­ple, but the Pen­tagon de­nied US forces were in­volved in Mon­day’s strikes. “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,” a Pen­tagon spokesman said.

Trump and Em­manuel Macron, the French pres­i­dent, have “agreed to ex­change in­for­ma­tion on the na­ture of the at­tacks and co­or­di­nate a strong, joint re­sponse”.

Syr­ian and Rus­sian mil­i­tary claim Is­raeli F15s like the one pic­tured struck a Syr­ian air­base from Le­banese airspace

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.