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Syria blames Israel for deadly strikes on airbase

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Syrian Army soldiers gathering in an area on the eastern outskirts of Douma, as they continue their offensive to retake the last opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta.

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10th-Apr-2018       
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AFP :
Syria and its Russian ally accused Israel on Monday of carrying out a deadly dawn bombing raid on a military airbase, as global outrage mounted over an alleged poison gas attack outside Damascus.
US President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron had vowed a strong response to the suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma and the UN Security Council was expected to discuss the crisis later on Monday.
Syrian state media reported "several missiles" had hit the T-4 base in central Syria just before dawn on Monday. Washington and Paris denied any involvement, and Damascus later blamed Israel.
"The Israeli attack on the T-4 airport was carried out with F-15 aircraft that fired several missiles from above Lebanese territory," state news agency SANA reported, quoting a military source.
The Russian army also accused Israel, saying two Israeli F-15s had fired eight missiles at the base and that five were destroyed by air defence systems but three hit a western part of the facility.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the country's conflict, said 14 fighters had been killed, including Syrian army officers and Iranian forces.
Forces from regime backers Russia and Iran, as well as fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, are known to have a presence at the base, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman denied it was involved, saying: "At this time, the Department of Defence is not conducting air strikes in Syria."
US forces a year ago fired a volley of cruise missiles at the government's Shayrat air base in retaliation for another suspected chemical attack in April 2017.
The Shayrat airport lies just 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of T-4, also known as the Tiyas base.
French army spokesman Colonel Patrik Steiger also denied France carried out the strike, telling AFP: "It was not us."
A military spokeswoman for Israel, which has hit Syrian military positions several times in recent years, declined to comment.
Israel has repeatedly warned it will not accept its arch-foe Iran entrenching itself militarily in Syria.
In February, it accused Iranian forces at the T-4 base of sending a drone into Israeli territory. After targeting 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 defence systems and Iranian targets, which reportedly included T-4.
Nick Heras, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security, said it Israel had a vested interest in bombing T-4.
"The Israelis, well aware of the importance of the T-4 base for Iran to apply strategic military pressure on Israel, would have ample reason to strike the base hard," he told AFP.

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