Syrian rebels applaud US strike, but say it’s ‘not enough’

‘There are 26 airbases that target civilians,’ says key figure in the Army of Islam faction

Illustrative photo of Syrian rebel forces from Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) taking position behind a sand barrier, Syria,  August 25, 2015 (AFP/AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI)
Illustrative photo of Syrian rebel forces from Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) taking position behind a sand barrier, Syria, August 25, 2015 (AFP/AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI)

Syrian rebels on Friday welcomed a US strike on a government airbase, but urged additional action, with one powerful faction saying a single strike was “not enough.”

The US attack on the Shayrat base in central Syria was Washington’s first military action against the regime in the six-year civil war.

“Hitting one airbase is not enough, there are 26 airbases that target civilians,” a key figure in the Army of Islam faction, Mohamed Alloush, said on his Twitter account.

“The whole world should save the Syrian people from the clutches of the killer Bashar (Assad) and his aides.”

Other rebel groups welcomed the US strike and called for continued military action against the regime.

“The American strike against the killing tools used by Bashar al-Assad is the first step on the correct path to combating terrorism and we hope it will continue,” said Issam Raes, spokesman for the Southern Front rebel faction.

“In my opinion, the message is political, and the message has arrived to Russia and been understood,” he told AFP.

Colonel Ahmed Osman, of the Turkey-backed Sultan Murad rebel group said: “We welcome any action that will put an end to the regime that is committing the worst crimes in history.”

In this image provided by the US Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017.(Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP)
In this image provided by the US Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017.(Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP)

Mohamed Bayrakdar, another leader of the Army of Islam, which operates mainly around the capital Damascus, described the strike as “a bold and correct step.”

“We welcome any response to the crimes of the regime,” he told AFP.

The strike followed days of outrage at images of dead children and victims suffering convulsions from the suspected sarin gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.

US officials said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from Navy ships in the Mediterranean at the Shayrat airfield at 3:40 am (0040 GMT), targeting the base from where Washington believes Tuesday’s deadly attack was launched.

Calling the strike a “flagrant aggression,” the Syrian army said it had killed six people and caused extensive damage to the base.

The attack was supported by US allies including Britain, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

But it was denounced by Assad allies Iran and Russia, with Moscow warning that it would inflict “considerable damage” on US-Russia ties and halting an agreement with Washington aimed at avoiding clashes in Syrian airspace.

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