The Latest: Russia criticizes French report on Syria attack
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria (all times local):
Russia’s Foreign Ministry is criticizing a French report that lays blame on the Syrian government for a chemical attack on a town in northern Syria in early April that killed almost 90 people.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that chemical analysis of samples taken from the April 4 sarin gas attack on Khan Sheihoun “bears the signature” of President Bashar Assad’s government and shows it was responsible.
The Russian ministry said in a statement on Thursday that such a conclusion is “incomprehensible” because, it said, Syria had possessed only precursors of sarin rather than the gas itself and that the precursors were taken out of Syria in 2014.
The statement says that “in short, there are many obvious inconsistencies that indicate the quality of the investigation.”
Earlier in the day, the Syrian government also condemned Ayrault’s statement from Wednesday as “lies and fabricated allegations.”
An Israeli defense official says the military’s Patriot missile that was deployed earlier in the evening over the Golan Heights had struck an incoming drone from Syria.
The official says the military is checking to see if it was a Russian aircraft that had entered the Israeli side on Thursday by mistake or if it was a Syrian one.
He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The incident comes after Syria accused Israel of striking a military installation near Damascus airport, setting off a series of pre-dawn explosions.
—Ian Deitch in Jerusalem;
Israel’s military says it deployed its Patriot missile defense system to intercept a projectile incoming from Syria above the Golan Heights.
The military did not elaborate on what it described as a “target” in its message on Thursday night.
Israeli media meanwhile are saying the military knocked out a drone that had infiltrated from Syria.
The incident comes after Syria accused Israel of striking a military installation near Damascus International Airport setting off a series of pre-dawn explosions.
Israel’s intelligence minister Yisrael Katz would not comment on the strike but said “it absolutely matches our declared policy, a policy that we also implement.”
Israel has repeatedly warned against “game-changing” weapons reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon from Syria which along with Iran supports the militant group.
Russia has denounced what it called “aggression” against Syria in the wake of an apparent Israeli missile attack on a Syrian military installation near Damascus International Airport.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova did not directly blame Israel for the Thursday morning explosion, but cited Syrian media as saying Israel was responsible.
She says “Moscow condemns acts of aggression against Syria” and calls on everyone to “act within the framework of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”
Israel appears to be striking at military convoys and installations in Syria at a quickening pace, maintaining it has the right to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group that fights alongside Syrian government forces.
Syrian activists say airstrikes across the opposition-held Idlib province have killed at least 19 people, with some targeting ambulances and medical centers.
The Civil Defense, a search-and-rescue organization, says four medical staff were killed in an attack on a university hospital in Deir Sharqi, and another four paramedics or ambulance operators were killed in a strike on an ambulance services charity in Maarzita.
The activist-run Idlib Media Center said another four people were killed by barrel bombs dropped on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, the site of a chemical attack earlier this month.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 19 civilians, including nine children, were killed around the northern province on Thursday. The Civil Defense reported the same overall death toll.
The activists believe Russia or the Syrian government launched the raids. The U.S. is also known to strike at positions in Idlib province, where it targets al-Qaida-affiliated fighters.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians displaced by the war have sought refuge in the rural province, which is now largely under the control of hard-line rebel groups. It borders Turkey to the north.
Syria’s government has condemned what it says are “lies and fabricated allegations” by the French foreign minister concerning a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this month.
Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that the chemical analysis of samples taken from the April 4 sarin gas attack “bears the signature” of President Bashar Assad’s government and shows it was responsible.
In a statement issued Thursday, the Syrian foreign ministry said Ayrault’s remarks show “France’s involvement in masterminding this crime.”
It also said France was not suited and had no legal authority to determine what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, the rebel-held town where the incident occurred.
Britain’s foreign secretary says Britain could join the United States in further military action against Syria if asked to do so.
Boris Johnson said Thursday it would be “very difficult to say no” if the U.S. seeks British help on a military mission against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
He did not specify whether Parliament would be asked to approve any military action ahead of time. He said that decision would be up to the government and Prime Minister Theresa May.
President Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile attack against a Syrian air base earlier this month in response to Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons against Syrians.
U.S. officials have said further attacks are likely if Assad uses banned chemical weapons again
Syria’s state media is reporting that Israel has attacked a military installation near the Damascus International Airport.
SANA says Israel fired several missiles from inside the occupied Golan Heights south of the capital at a military installation near the capital’s main airport, triggering several explosions and causing damage.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Residents reported feeling the blasts shortly before 4 a.m.
Israel’s intelligence minister says a large explosion near the Damascus airport is in line with Israeli policy but stopped short of taking responsibility for it.
Yisrael Katz wouldn’t comment directly on the strike Thursday morning but said “it absolutely matches our declared policy, a policy that we also implement.”
Israel has repeatedly warned against “game-changing” weapons reaching Hezbollah from Syria, which along with Iran supports the militant group. Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 rockets on Israel in the 2006 war.
The explosion was heard across the Syrian capital, jolting residents awake, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdurrahman said.
Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war. It has also carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected weapon convoys it believed were destined for Hezbollah.
Syrian opposition activists and a monitor say a large explosion has rocked the Syrian capital, followed by a fire near Damascus airport.
The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdurrahman says the explosion early Thursday has been heard across the capital, jolting residents awake. He says the explosion is reported to have occurred near the Damascus airport road.
The dawn explosion has also been reported by other activists’ networks but the source was unclear.
Activist-operated Diary of a Mortar, which reports from Damascus, says the explosion near the airport road was followed by flames rising above the area. A pro-government site Damascus Now says the explosion was near the city’s Seventh Bridge, which leads to the airport road.