ON APRIL 9, 201812
Russia has blamed the Israeli Air Force for the deadly airstrike on a Bashar al-Assad air base after a suspected chemical attack killed at least 40 in a Damascus suburb over the weekend. Russia’s Defense Ministry said two Israeli fighter jets launched the attack on the T4 air base in central Syria from Lebanon’s air space. Syria shot down five out of the eight missiles that targeted the base, the ministry said. It said the other three landed in the western part of the T4 base. The airstrikes reportedly killed 14 people, including Iranians, at a military airport near the city of Homs. Syrian state TV quoted unnamed military official as saying Israeli F-15 warplanes had fired several missiles while flying over neighboring Lebanon. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says most of the 14 killed were either Iranians or members of Iran-backed groups. The report on SANA said the attack on the T4 military airbase “is likely to be an American aggression.” U.S. officials denied involvement. Israel has also struck inside Syria in recent years. Saturday’s chemical attack unfolded in a rebel-held town near Damascus amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce. Syrian activists, rescuers and medics said a poison gas attack in Douma killed at least 40 people, with families found suffocated in their houses and shelters. The reports could not immediately be independently verified. Images released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, a volunteer organization, showed children lying on the ground motionless and foaming at the mouth. The Assad government denied responsibility. On Sunday morning, Trump condemned the latest attack as “mindless,” referred to Assad as an “animal” and said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “responsible” for enabling the carnage. The president also warned Russia and Iran that there would be a “big price to pay” for backing the Assad regime and slammed former President Barack Obama, who vowed in 2012 that such actions would cross a “red line,” but later failed to enforce the promise a year later when hundreds of Syrians were killed by sarin gas. Instead, Obama brokered a multi-nation deal in which Assad pledged to remove his chemical-weapons stockpile. Trump would meet with his senior military leadership on Monday, the same day his new national security adviser, John Bolton, assumes his post. Bolton has previously advocated significant airstrikes against Syria.