US strike kills 9 civilians, 4 children — Syria state media
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US strike kills 9 civilians, 4 children — Syria state media

SANA news agency cites deaths in villages surrounding airbase targeted by Washington; Assad denounces 'reckless, irresponsible' strike

In this image provided by the US Navy, the USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a Tomahawk missile Friday, April 7, 2017, from the Mediterranean Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/US Navy via AP)
In this image provided by the US Navy, the USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a Tomahawk missile Friday, April 7, 2017, from the Mediterranean Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/US Navy via AP)

A US missile strike targeting an airbase in central Syria killed nine civilians, including four children, on Friday, state news agency SANA reported, as the office of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad denounced the raid as “reckless and irresponsible.”

The news agency said five of the civilians, among them three children, were killed in the village of Shayrat just outside the base of the same name.

“An American missile also hit the village of Al-Hamrat, which killed four civilians including a child,” it added.

“Another seven civilians were wounded when a missile hit homes in Al-Manzul, four kilometres (two and a half miles) away from the Shayrat air base,” it added.

It said four more were killed in two other nearby villages — Al-Hamrat and Al-Manzul.

Assad’s office released a statement Friday afternoon, describing the strike as “reckless, irresponsible behavior” and an “unjust and arrogant aggression.”

“Targeting an airport of a sovereign state by the US is an outrageous act that clarifies in conclusive evidence once again what Syria has been saying, that the succession of [US] administrations… does not change the deep policies of its entity which is represented by targeting states, subjugating peoples and the attempt to dominate the world,” the statement read.

Earlier Friday, the Syrian military said at least seven people were killed and nine wounded in the missile strike. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitor, also put the death toll at seven, including a general and three soldiers.

Washington said it fired a barrage of 59 cruise missiles at the Shayrat base in response to what President Donald Trump called a “barbaric” chemical attack on a rebel-held town on Tuesday that he blamed on the Damascus regime.

They were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for Tuesday’s deadly chemical attack, which officials said used chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin.

The overnight missile attack, which marked the first time the US has directly targeted Assad’s forces, was condemned by his allies in Russia and Iran but welcomed by the Syrian opposition and its supporters, who expressed hope it signaled a turning point in the devastating six-year-old civil war.

This Oct. 7, 2016 satellite image released by the U.S. Department of Defense shows Shayrat air base in Syria. (DigitalGlobe/U.S. Department of Defense via AP)
This Oct. 7, 2016 satellite image released by the US Department of Defense shows Shayrat air base in Syria. (DigitalGlobe/US Department of Defense via AP)

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin believes the US strike is an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law.” Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin believes the US launched the strikes under a “far-fetched pretext.”

“Washington’s move deals a significant blow to the Russia-US relations, which are already in a deplorable shape,” Peskov said. He added that the attack creates a “serious obstacle” for creating an international coalition against terrorism.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it is suspending a memorandum with Washington — signed after Russia began an air campaign in support of Assad in September 2015 — under which the two countries exchange information about sorties over Syria.

The Kremlin later moved to diminish the attack, saying that just 23 of 59 cruise missiles reached the air base, destroying six Syrian jets but leaving the runway intact. Moscow also confirmed it had been informed of the attack in advance.

A US-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria since 2014, while Russia’s air force has been striking both extremist groups and Syrian rebels in order to aid Assad’s forces.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which support the Syrian opposition, welcomed the missile strike, with Riyadh calling it a “courageous decision” by Trump. Iran called it a “dangerous” unilateral action that would “strengthen terrorists” and further complicate the conflict.

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