14 said killed in attack on Syrian facility previously targeted by Israel
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14 said killed in attack on Syrian facility previously targeted by Israel

Iranians reportedly among fatalities in early-morning missile strike on T-4 air base; US denies involvement, IDF won't comment

The Tiyas, or T-4, Air Base, outside of the Syrian city of Palmyra, which Israel claims is being operated by Iran and its Quds Force. (Screen capture/Wikimapia)
The Tiyas, or T-4, Air Base, outside of the Syrian city of Palmyra, which Israel claims is being operated by Iran and its Quds Force. (Screen capture/Wikimapia)

Missiles struck an air base in central Syria early Monday, killing 14 people, including Iranians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

Syria’s state-run news agency confirmed the strike, but did not comment on the number of casualties, saying only, “There are martyrs and wounded.”

Although initially the agency said it was likely “an American aggression,” following a denial by the United States, the Russian military and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime accused Israel of carrying out the attack.

Israel refused to comment on the claims.

The target of the reported missile strike was the Tiyas air base — also known as the T-4 air base — outside Palmyra in central Syria.

Syrian state media reported that its air defenses intercepted a number of incoming missiles, but that others hit the base.

“According to a military source in Damascus, the Syrian Air Defense system was deployed from the Mezzeh Air Base after the jets entered Syria from Lebanon’s Beqa’a Valley,” Lebanese news site Al-Masdar News reported.

That is the route that Israeli jets generally take before bombing military targets in Syria, according to foreign reports.

Syrian television showed footage of the alleged Israeli missiles flying through Syrian airspace toward the base.

Israel conducted an airstrike against the Tiyas base on February 10, after an Iranian operator working out of it flew an Iranian-made drone into Israeli territory, according to the army.

“Iran and the [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ special unit] Quds Force for some time have been operating the T-4 Air Base in Syria next to Palmyra, with support from the Syrian military and with permission from the Syrian regime,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement at the time.

Construction Minister Yoav Galant, a former IDF major general and a member of Israel’s security cabinet, would not comment directly on the attack, but reiterated the “red lines” that Jerusalem considers grounds for launching strikes.

The location of the T-4 airbase, highlighted in red, that was bombed in the predawn hours of April 9, 2018. Syria and Russia have blamed Israel for the attack. (Credit: Joseph Hirsch)

“In Syria many forces, from various bodies and coalitions, are operating. Each one says what it says and denies what it denies,” he told Israel Radio. “We have clear interests in Syria and we set red lines. We will not allow weapons to pass from Syria to Lebanon, and we will not allow the establishment of an Iranian base.”

The missile attack followed a suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the last remaining foothold for the Syrian opposition in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. At least 40 people were killed, including families found in their homes and shelters, opposition activists and local rescuers said.

On Sunday, US President Donald Trump had promised a “big price to pay” for the suspected chemical attack. After the airstrikes were reported, however, Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood said in a statement, “At this time, the Department of Defense is not conducting airstrikes in Syria.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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