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US says Israel carried out deadly strike on Syria air base

Un F-16 de l'armée israélienne décolle de la base militaire de Ramon dans le désert du Negev en Israël, le 21 octobre 2013
Jack Guez (AFP)
Lavrov says strike a 'very dangerous development'; No comment from Israel on allegations it carried out attack

The United States, Russia and Syria said Israel carried out a deadly airstrike on an Iran-operated air base in Syria's central Homs province overnight Monday, with Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov describing the raid as a "very dangerous development."

Russia's defense ministry said that two F-15 Israeli warplanes launched eight missiles at the Tayfur (or "T4") airbase from within Lebanese airspace between 03:25 am and 03:53 am Moscow time (0025 GMT and 0053 GMT).

It said that five of the eight missiles were shot down by air defense systems, but the remaining three struck "the Western part of the airbase."

A US official also told NBC News that Israel carried out the attack and that Israeli officials forewarned Washington in advance.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued no official response to allegations that it was behind the attack that a war monitor said killed 14 people. Iranian state media said three Iranians were among the dead.

A Syrian military source cited by the state-run SANA news agency also accused Israel of launching the attack, saying that "the Israeli attack on the T-4 airport was carried out with F-15 aircraft that fired several missiles from above Lebanese territory."

Russia's outing of Israel, with which it has established a coordination hotline to avoid clashes over Syria, was unprecedented.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the strike a "very dangerous development."

"I hope at least that the US military and those of the countries participating in the coalition led by the United States understand that," Lavrov told a press conference.

SANA first reported the raid as a "suspected US attack," but later withdrew all reference to the US as Washington and France both denied involvement.

Several pro-Assad Syrian news outlets and Lebanese outlets later indicated that Israel was likely behind the strike.

Lebanon's army said that four Israeli aircraft breached and flew for ten minutes through Lebanese airspace. The country's Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen outlet earlier claimed that an Israeli surveillance aircraft was spotted over the base at the time of the strike.

The country's Al-Masdar news site cited a Syrian military source as saying jets entered Syrian airspace from Lebanon’s Beqa’a Valley, a route that foreign press reports say is typically used by Israel to launch strikes in Syria.

A military spokeswoman for Israel declined to comment on the strike which targeted the same airbase hit by Israel in February after an Iranian drone breached its airspace.

After bombing Iranian units in Syria in retaliation, an Israel F-16 was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire in one of the conflict's most notable escalations.

Israel then carried out what it called "large-scale" raids on Syrian air defense systems and Iranian targets, which reportedly included T-4.

A number of strikes on targets in Syria have been attributed to Israel, though it rarely confirms such raids.

Israel has repeatedly warned that it will not accept its arch-foe Iran entrenching itself militarily in Syria.

Construction Minister Yoav Galant, a former IDF major general and a member of Israel’s security cabinet, reiterated Israel's "red lines" in Syria though he declined to comment directly on Monday's strike.

“In Syria many forces, from various bodies and coalitions, are operating. Each one says what it says and denies what it denies,” Galant told Israel Radio.

“We have clear interests in Syria and we set red lines. We will not allow weapons to pass from Syria to Lebanon, and we will not allow the establishment of an Iranian base.”

Monday's raid came as worldwide outrage mounted over a reported chemical weapons attack on a rebel-controlled town outside the Syrian capital.

Aid groups in Douma, the last rebel-held town in the besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave near Damascus, said that patients showing signs of "respiratory distress, central cyanosis, excessive oral foaming, corneal burns, and the emission of chlorine-like odor" presented themselves after air raids on Saturday.

At least 42 civilians were killed in the attack, which the United States, Turkey and the European Union said was likely carried out by the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, who is waging an 8-years-long battle to shore up his family's authoritarian rule.

US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron vowed a "strong, joint response" to the reported use of toxic gas in the rebel-held town of Douma, but both countries denied launching the assault.

See also:

Israel's chief rabbi: Jews must try to stop Syria 'murder'

Military to present Trump with Syria strike options within hours: sources

Trump blames 'animal Assad' for Syria chemical attack

US takes aim at Russia over alleged Syria chemical attack

Moscow denies claims Syrian regime used chemical weapons in Douma


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