Israel blamed for missile strike in Syria; 14 reported dead

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An image grab from a video released by the Douma City Coordination Committee shows unidentified volunteers spraying a man with water at a makeshift hospital following an alleged chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma on Saturday. AFP
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The Russian military said on Monday that two Israeli F-15 war planes had carried out strikes on a Syrian air base. (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2018
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Israel blamed for missile strike in Syria; 14 reported dead

  • Syria, Russia accuse Israel over strike on Syrian air base
  • Russia said two Israeli aircraft targeted the T4 air base in Homs province, firing eight missiles
AMMAN: Syria and its main ally Russia blamed Israel for carrying out an attack on a Syrian air base near Homs on Monday which followed reports of a poison gas attack by President Bashar Assad’s forces on a rebel-held town.
Israel, which has struck Syrian army locations many times in the course of its neighbor’s seven-year-old civil war, has not confirmed nor denied mounting the raid.
But Israeli officials said the Tiyas, or T-4, air base was being used by troops from Iran and that Israel would not accept such a presence in Syria by its arch foe.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitor, said at least 14 people were killed including some fighters of various nationalities, a reference to Iranian-backed Shiite militia members, mostly from Iraq, Lebanon and Iran fighting alongside the Syrian army.
The attack demonstrated the multi-faceted nature of the Syria conflict, which started in March 2011 as an uprising against Assad and now involves several countries and various insurgent groups in a web of alliances.
It took place hours after US President Donald Trump warned of a “big price to pay” following the reports of a poison gas attack on the rebel-held town of Douma which killed dozens of people, including children.
Trump referred in a Tweet to “Animal Assad” and criticized Russia and Iran for backing the Syrian leader, directly naming Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Damascus denied its forces had launched any chemical assault and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said such allegations were false and a provocation. Lavrov also said the strike on the T-4 base was a dangerous development.
Syrian state TV initially said the US was suspected of carrying out the attack on T-4. Washington denied this, and France, which in February had said it would strike in the event of a chemical weapon attack on civilians by Syrian government forces, also said its forces were not involved.
The Russian military, whose support for Assad has turned the war in his favor, said two Israeli F-15 war planes carried out the strike. Interfax news agency cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying Syrian air defense systems had shot down five of eight missiles fired.
Syrian state media, citing a military source, carried a similar report. “The Israeli aggression on the T4 airport was carried out with F-15 planes that fired several missiles from above Lebanese land,” state news agency SANA said.
Red lines
The Israeli government had no immediate comment.
Israel has accused Damascus of allowing Iran to set up a complex at the T-4 base to supply arms to its ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and in the past its forces have hit convoys and bases of Iranian-backed militias that fight alongside Assad’s troops.
Defense analysts say a number of Russian troops are also based there and jets fly regular sorties from T-4.
Israeli opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid told Army Radio: “Israel will not accept an Iranian military presence in Syria and will not accept Iran’s creeping entrenchment in Syria and this has costs.”
Housing Minister Yoav Galant, while also not confirming that Israel had carried out the attack, said: “We have clear interests in Syria. We laid down red lines there, which said that we would not allow Syrian land to be a springboard for game-changing weaponry to Lebanon, we would not allow the building of an Iranian army in Syria and we would not allow the opening of another front on the Golan Heights.
“In this context we are taking action with all means, over time.”
As international officials worked to try to confirm Saturday’s chemical attack on Douma, a Syria medical relief group said at least 60 people had been killed there and more than 1,000 injured in several sites.
Foam at the mouth
The Syrian American Medical Society and the civil defense service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said 49 people had been killed in the suspected gas attack. The Syrian opposition blamed the suspected chemical attack on government forces, who launched an air and ground assault on Douma, the last rebel-held town in the eastern Ghouta district, on Friday.
One video shared by activists showed bodies of about a dozen children, women and men, some with foam at the mouth.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
The US launched a missile strike on a Syrian air base a year ago in response to the killing of dozens of civilians in a sarin gas attack in an opposition-held town in northwest Syria. The gas attack was blamed on Assad.
US government sources said Washington’s assessment of Saturday’s attack was that chemical weapons were used. The EU also said evidence pointed to the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces.


Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

Updated 23 April 2019
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Iran lawmakers authorize firm action against US ‘terrorist’ acts

  • President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist group
  • Tehran reacted to the designation by naming the US Central Command a terrorist organization

DUBAI: Iran’s parliament passed a bill on Tuesday requiring the government take firm steps to respond to “terrorist actions” by US forces, state TV reported, retaliating against Washington’s blacklisting of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
President Donald Trump on April 8 designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist group, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on US forces.
Tehran reacted to the designation, which took effect on April 15, by naming the US Central Command (CENTCOM) a terrorist organization and the US government a sponsor of terrorism.
“The bill authorizes the government to take firm and retaliatory measures against terrorist activities of American forces that endangers Iran’s interests,” TV reported.
“The government should use legal, political and diplomatic measures in response to the American actions.”
Highly loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the IRGC is a powerful force which controls much of the Iranian economy and wields political influence in the country’s faction-ridden clerical establishment.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency said some 168 lawmakers out of 210 present at the parliament voted for the bill.
Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since last year, when Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
In recent years, there have been periodic confrontations between the IRGC and US military in the Gulf.
The new chief commander of the IRGC Hossein Salami, appointed after the US blacklisting, has warned in the past that Iran could use its cruise and ballistic missiles and drones, mines, speedboats, and missile launchers in the Gulf area to confront the United States.
The Trump administration, which has taken a hard line on Iran, said in a statement on Monday that the president has decided not to reissue waivers in May allowing importers to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the heightening economic pressure on Iran showed that Washington was in panic.
“Escalating #EconomicTERRORISM against Iranians exposes panic & desperation of US regime — and chronic failures of its client co-conspirators,” Zarif Tweeted on Tuesday.
A commander of Iran’s IRGC said on Monday that Tehran would block all exports through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Tehran is barred from using the waterway, where a fifth of global oil consumption passes on its way from Middle East producers to major markets.