Syria strikes – latest updates: ‘False alarm’ claim as Syrian state media retracts report two air bases were attacked overnight

Syria strikes – latest updates: ‘False alarm’ claim as Syrian state media retracts report two air bases were attacked overnight

Reports in Syrian state media that a fresh missile strike had been launched against two air bases in the country were incorrect, government-run outlets have now said.

Air defences were triggered early on Tuesday due to a false alarm, state television said later in the day. It had been reported that a new missile attack targeted Syria’s Sharyat air base, near Homs, and the Dumayr air field north-east of Damascus, with the Pentagon denying US involvement and Israel declining to comment.

It came as MPs prepared for a second emergency debate on the use of Britain’s armed forces in Saturday’s air strikes. Jeremy Corbyn and others have criticised Theresa May for not giving parliament a vote on military action, but the prime minister defended the bombings as “a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before” designed to disrupt Syria’s chemical weapons capability.

Inspectors will be able to access the site of an alleged chemical attack in Syria on Wednesday, Russia has said. Roads into Douma were still being cleared, an official added, following accusations by the UK that Russia and Syria were blocking the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) from the area.

Live Updates

The Trump administration is seeking to bring together an Arab force to replace US military personnel on the ground in Syria, it has been reported.

 

John Bolton is involved in the initiative, the Wall Street Journal reported, and recently spoke to a senior Egyptian official to gauge that country’s support for the plan.

 

“We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region including contributing larger amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-Isis effort” in Syria, Mr Trump said when he announced Saturday’s joint air strikes.

Greek authorities say hundreds of refugees and other migrants have crossed the land border with Turkey in the past two days, with illegal crossings in the area increasing significantly following Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria. 

 

Police said they had detained 370 people on Monday who had crossed the Evros River, which forms a natural border between Greece and Turkey, and another 140 people on Sunday.

 

The land route from Turkey into north-eastern Greece has become increasingly popular as conditions deteriorate on Greek islands, long the preferred route, where strict controls are now imposed on movement and camps are overcrowded.

 

Authorities have noted a surge in arrivals across the Evros, with 1,658 people detained in March compared to 586 in February and 262 in March 2017.

 

AP

Theresa May has told a meeting of Commonwealth leaders that the use of chemical weapons must not be normalised.

 

The prime minister said at a London gathering of the organisation: “At the very moment international cooperation is so important some nations are choosing instead to shun the rules-based international system that underpins global security and prosperity.

 

“And the danger of the rules-based system being undermined is nowhere more obvious right now than in Syria.

 

“On top of the huge suffering inflicted on the Syrian people by years of conflict, we have seen a persistent pattern of behaviour in the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. Most recently in the barbaric attack on Douma earlier this month.

 

“We cannot allow the risk of chemical weapons to become normalised, either within Syria, or on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”

 

​PA
 

Scrutiny of Russia’s role on the world stage is deepening in the wake of the alleged chemical attack in Syria, where it backs president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and accusations the Kremlin meddled with 2016’s US presidential election.

 

Last night UK and US officials claimed Vladimir Putin’s government was behind an effort to target millions of internet-connected devices worldwide in order to spy, steal information and build networks for potentially devastating future cyber attacks.

 

The first ever joint “technical alert” from the two countries urged members of the public and businesses to help combat vulnerabilities with basic security precautions.

 

Russian hackers targeting millions of devices around the world, US and UK warn

Russian hackers are targeting millions of devices around the world to spy, steal information and build networks for potentially devastating future cyber attacks, the US and UK have revealed.

 

The first ever joint “technical alert” from the two countries urged members of the public and businesses to help combat vulnerabilities with basic security precautions.

Syrian state media is now also saying that reports of a new missile strike on the country were a false alarm.

 

Government-run television quoted an unnamed military official as saying that air defenses fired a number of missiles because of a false alarm, without providing more information.

 

Hours earlier, state media outlets had said the country’s air defenses confronted a new “aggression,” shooting down missiles over the central region of Homs and a suburb of Damascus.

 

The reports did not say who had launched the pre-dawn strikes, which were reported by Syrian state TV and the government-run Syrian Central Media.

A new claim has been made relating to the reports of fresh missile strikes against Syrian air bases overnight.

 

The claimed false alarm that triggered Syria’s air defence systems was caused by “a joint electronic attack” by Israel and the US, a commander in the Assad-aligned regional military alliance told Reuters.

 

Syrian state media had reported that missiles were fired at the Sharyat and Dumair air bases overnight, but morning bulletins later featured no mention of the strikes, according to the BBC Monitoring Twitter account.

 

The US said it had had no military assets in the area at the time of the reported strikes while Israel declined to comment.

Here, our defence editor Kim Sengupta analyses the UK-US “special relationship” in the light of the joint strikes on Syria.

 

Bombing Syria revealed just how fragile the ‘special relationship’ is

Emmanuel Macron has declared that he persuaded Donald Trump to limit the Syria air strikes to a few targets and avoid a conflagration.

 

In London, the briefing from government officials was that the US president was, in fact, wobbling over military action at the end and Theresa May played a part in his holding firm.

The Syrian army has completed its preparations for an operation against Isis and Nusra front militants in an area south of Damascus, according to a commander loyal to Bashar al-Assad.

 

It began shelling Yarmouk Camp and the adjoining al-Hajar al-Aswad area ahead of a move to retake the sites, the commander told Reuters.

 

The government also plans to recover another rebel enclave south of Damascus around the town of Beit Sahm, the commander said, though this would happen through an agreement with the government by which fighters would leave for Idlib.

Our reporter Robert Fisk has visited Douma.

 

Read his report below:

 

The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

This is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks – and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week.

 

There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world – despite all the doubters – is perfectly genuine.

The G7 industrialised nations have condemned the alleged chemical attack in eastern Ghouta in Syria on 7 April and backed “proportionate” efforts by the US, Britain and France to stop the future use of such weapons.

 

“We fully support efforts made by the US, the UK and France to decrease the capacity to use chemical weapons by the Assad regime and to prevent their future use,” said the leaders.

 

“We still stand by a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria,” they added in the statement released by Germany on Tuesday.

 

The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.

 

Additional reporting by Reuters

Haaretz is reporting that Syrian military sources have denied the reports of an early-morning missiles attack on Sharyat air bases.

 

The sources told the DPA news agency that air defence systems were activated following a false alarm, the website said.

 

Syrian state television first reported the strikes.

 

According to the BBC Monitoring Twitter account, state-run television did not repeat details of those launches in its morning news bulletin.

A bit more on those overnight missile strikes on Syrian air bases.

 

State-run media decried what it described as new “aggression”, following launches against two sites, Sharyat and Dumair. The reports did not say who carried out the pre-dawn strikes.

 

Shayrat air base near Homs was targeted last year in a US cruise missile attack in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 70 people, including children on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Israel has struck Syrian army locations numerous times in the course of the conflict, hitting convoys and bases of Iranian-backed militias that fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

 

While Israel has declined to confirm or deny reports of strikes in Syria, it is widely believed to be engaging in a shadow conflict with Iran in Syria.

 

Earlier this month, four Iranian military personnel were killed in an air strike on Syria’s T4 air base, also in Homs.

 

Syrian anti-aircraft defences ‘shoot down missiles’ in Homs, state TV reports

Syrian anti-aircraft defences shot down missiles that hit the Syrian air base of Shayrat in Homs province late Monday night, Syrian state television said.

 

Reports showed pictures of a missile that was shot in the air above the air base only days after a US, British and French attack on Syrian targets in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack on the city of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus.

 

A Pentagon spokesman said there was no US military activity in that area at the time.

For an in-depth look at Theresa May’s defence of her decision to send in the RAF without consulting MPs, read our story below:

 

Theresa May defends Syria air strikes amid criticism for refusal to grant parliamentary vote

Theresa May has faced MPs to defend her decision to launch air strikes against the Syrian government, but ducked calls to give parliament a retrospective vote on the matter.

 

Speaking in the House of Commons, the prime minister dismissed suggestions the government had followed the “whims” of Donald Trump and insisted she had taken the decision to launch strikes because it was in the UK’s national interest.

 

But she faced criticism from MPs, including some on her own benches, for not seeking a vote of parliament before launching the strikes.

Welcome to our live blog of developments in the Syria crisis for 17 April.

 

Today MPs are preparing for a second debate on the UK’s armed forces having been deployed without parliament voting for action, following hours of questions in the Commons yesterday evening.

During Monday evening’s debate Ms May insisted: “We have not done this because President Trump asked us to do so.

“We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do. And we are not alone: there is broad based international support for the action we have taken.”

However, Mr Corbyn suggested the UK had blindly followed Mr Trump into “legally questionable” strikes and re-iterated calls for a new War Powers Act to enshrine parliament’s right to be given a vote before the UK engages in military action.

Representatives of the UK, US and Russia spent much of Monday in diplomatic combat over chemical inspectors’ access to Douma. The US’ envoy to the OPCW, Kenneth Ward, said he believed Russian personnel had visited the site and voiced fears it may have been tampered with, prompting Moscow’s foreign minister to “guarantee” this was not the case.

Both the US and UK accused Russia of blocking inspectors from accessing Douma, with the Kremlin saying any delays were due to Saturday’s air strikes and a lack of UN permits on the part of the OPCW – an assertion denied in turn by the UN.

The OPCW’s director general said on Monday afternoon that while access had not yet been granted, Syrian authorities had offered to transport 22 witnesses to Damascus for interview.


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