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Russia blames Israel for Syria air base attack after Pentagon denial of U.S. involvement

A Syrian monitoring group says a missile strike on a Syrian air base killed 14 people including Iranians early Monday. Syrian state-run media says the missiles were likely American. The Pentagon denies launching airstrikes on Syria. (April 9)

AP

Russia on Monday said the Israel Air Force was responsible for a missile attack on an air base in central Syria that activists say killed at least 14 people.

It came hours after the Pentagon denied Syrian media reports that it conducted the air strikes in Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack on civilians over the weekend.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said two Israeli fighter jets launched eight guided missiles at the T4 air base from Lebanon’s air space early Monday.

The Russian ministry said the Syrian air force destroyed five missiles, and three reached the western part of the airfield, Russia’s Tass news agency reported.

Syrian state TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying Israeli F-15 warplanes had fired several missiles while flying over Lebanon.

More: Pentagon denies conducting air strikes in Syria after alleged chemical attack

More: Syria’s civil war has been raging for 7 years and no end in sight

Israel refused to comment on the allegations, the Times of Israel reported. Israel carried out an airstrike on the T4 base on Feb. 10  after an Iranian operator working there flew a drone into Israeli territory, according to Israeli media reports.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said the Syrian military’s air defenses confronted a missile attack on air base in central Syria early Monday and shot down eight missiles.

The SANA report said the attack on the T4 military air base in Homs province “is likely to be an American aggression.”

Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, said 14 people were killed, most of them Iranians or members of Iran-backed groups.

A statement released by Israel’s Department of Defense Sunday night denied it had fired missiles and said it would “continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable.”

President Trump lashed out Sunday against the alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces on civilians, ripping “that animal Assad” and laying blame for the Syrian president’s power on Russia, Iran and even former president Barack Obama.

Trump’s tweet storm came hours after the White Helmets, a civil defense force in rebel-held areas of Syria, claimed that entire families were gassed to death Saturday night in Douma and Eastern Ghouta. The group, which put the death toll at more than 40, said many residents who were hiding in cellars were suffocated by poison gas.

Syrian state media said Sunday that rebel forces led by the Army of Islam had agreed to leave Douma within 48 hours as Syrian leader Bashar Assad tightened his grip on rebel strongholds around Damascus.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump said on Twitter. “Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world.”

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