Syria military says U.S. attack kills at least 6 - WNEM TV 5

Syria military says U.S. attack kills at least 6

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President Donald Trump walks from the podium after speaking at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach Thursday, after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria Thursday night. President Donald Trump walks from the podium after speaking at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach Thursday, after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria Thursday night.
Beirut (AP) -

Syrian military says the U.S. missile attack on one of its air bases in central Syria has killed six and caused extensive damage, calling it an aggression that undermines Damascus' counter terrorism operations.

The statement read on TV Friday came hours after the U.S. sent nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles into the Shayrat air base, southeast of Homs, the first American attack against the Syrian army since the war started in 2011.

General Ali Ayyoub , the chief of the General Staff of the Syrian Army, said Washington has used the chemical attack in the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun earlier this week as a "pretext" to carry out the "blatant aggression" , without knowing what really happened. Syria blames the opposition fighters of stockpiling chemical weapons.

A communication link between the U.S. and Russia used to protect their pilots flying sorties over Syria was used ahead of an American missile strike on the country.

The so-called "deconfliction line" is operated by the U.S. military's Central Command at the sprawling al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. It serves as a crucial link to make sure the increasingly crowded Syrian airspace doesn't see any accidental collisions or attacks on each other.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis says: "U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield" targeted in Syria's Homs province. U.S. Central Command did not immediately respond to an Associated Press query on specifics of how the line was used.

About 60 U.S. Tomahawk missiles launched early Friday hit the Shayrat air base, southeast of the city of Homs, a small installation with two runways. The attack came in response for a chemical weapons attack Tuesday in Syria.

Turkey has welcomed the U.S. missile strike on Syria, saying it was an "important and meaningful" development but called for a continued tough stance against President Bashar Assad that would render him "no longer able to harm his people."

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said in a live television interview Friday: "It is imperative that the Assad regime is fully punished by the international community."

"We see the (air strikes) as positive, but we believe that this should be completed," Kurtulmus said. "The Assad regime's barbarism must immediately be stopped."

Kurtulmus added that he hoped the U.S. action would help accelerate peace efforts in Syria.

Turkey is a strong opponent of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has backed the Syrian opposition fighting against him.

The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin believes that the U.S. strike on a Syrian air base is an "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law."

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Friday's statement carried by Russian news agencies that Putin believes that the U.S. has dealt the strikes under "far-fetched pretext."

Russia has argued that the death of civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday resulted from Syrian forces hitting a rebel chemical arsenal there.

Peskov said that the U.S. has ignored past incidents of the use of chemical weapons by Syrian rebels. He argued that the Syrian government has destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control.

A survivor of the chemical attack in a northern Syrian town says he hopes the U.S. missile attack could help put an end to Syrian government airstrikes, creating a safe area for civilians.

Alaa Alyousef, a 27-year old resident of Khan Sheikhoun, said Friday the U.S. missile attack "alleviates a small part of our sufferings," but he worries it will be like "anesthetics," to save face. AlYousef said the U.S. is capable of "paralyzing" Syrian warplanes .

"What good is a strike on Shayart air base alone while we have more than 15 other air bases," he said. Alyousef lost at least 25 relatives in this week's gruesome chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun. The Syrian government denies it was behind the attack, believed to have deployed chemical weapons.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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