Israel is accused of launching a barrage of missiles at an airbase in the Homs province on Monday morning. The airstrikes came just days after a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta killed dozens of men, women and children, and prompted international condemnation.
The T4 military base was hit with “several missiles” early Monday morning, SANA, Syria’s state-run media network, reported. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said 14 people were killed in the attack.
According to The Associated Press, SANA initially called the airstrikes an “American aggression.” However, Pentagon officials quickly denied any involvement in the strikes, telling reporters that the United States was not bombing Syria, as did France and the U.K.
“At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting airstrikes in Syria,” the Pentagon told CNN in a statement. “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.”
The Russian Defense Ministry and Syria accused Israel of carrying out the bombings, firing eight missiles from two aircraft. Syria shot down five of the missiles, they alleged, while the remaining three hit the base. Israel’s Defense Forces have yet to comment, although two U.S. officials told NBC News that the Americans were informed of the attack in advance.
More than 40 people died in eastern Ghouta on Saturday in the suspected chemical attack. At least 500 others were treated for “symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent,” the aid group White Helmets said.
Graphic images taken in the region appeared to show entire families suffocated in their homes, some with foam coming out of their mouths.
Although aid organizations blamed the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad for the suspected chemical attack, state-run media in both Syria and Russia denied those reports.
“A military intervention under far-fetched and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where there are Russian soldiers at the request of the legitimate Syrian government, is absolutely unacceptable and could have the most dire consequences,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement obtained by Agency France-Presse.
President Donald Trump issued a series of tweets following the incident and vowed that Syria would pay a “big price” for its involvement. He blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin and the government of Iran for backing “Animal Assad”:
The White House has not ruled out military action in retaliation for the chemical attack ― if it is determined to be linked to Assad. The incident could also impact Trump’s proposal to withdraw American troops from Syria in the coming months.
“I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” Homeland Security adviser Thomas Bossert told ABC on Sunday. “These are horrible photos; we’re looking into the attack at this point.”
The U.S. conducted a missile strike against a Syrian airbase last year following a separate chemical attack that killed 80 people. At the time, Trump said it was in the “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”