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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Syria retracts reports of new missile attack in Homs

Pro-regime outlets and social-media accounts had earlier reported that air defences have foiled a missile attack on Shayrat air base near Homs

A handout photo made available by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) showing a British Royal Air Force Tornado taxing before take off at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, 14 April 2018 after conducting strikes in Syria. EPA/ British Ministry of Defence.
A handout photo made available by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) showing a British Royal Air Force Tornado taxing before take off at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, 14 April 2018 after conducting strikes in Syria. EPA/ British Ministry of Defence.

Syria said on Tuesday that a “false alarm” had activated its air defences, retracting earlier statements of an overnight missile attack on the central province of Homs.

“Last night, a false alarm that Syrian air space had been penetrated triggered the blowing of air defence sires and the firing of several missiles,” state news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying.

“The was no external attack on Syria.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Syrian state media reported that new missile strikes targeted two airfields – one near Homs and the other near Damascus. The United States-led coalition denied involvement.

Pro-Syrian regime outlets and social-media accounts had reported that air defences had foiled a missile attack on Shayrat air base near Homs, the same location that was targeted in US missile strikes last year. Reports close to the regime indicated that its defences shot down six missiles targeting the base.

Near Damascus, pro-regime media had reported that three missiles had been launched at the Damir air base close to the capital.

A US defence department spokesperson told The National: “There are no US or Coalition operations in that area. We don’t have anything additional to provide.”

Some reports pointed fingers at Israel, which carried similar attacks in the past against Iranian interests directly or their proxy presence in Syria.

The incident came less than 72 hours after the US, France and the United Kingdom carried out missile strikes against three targets in Syria, that include two chemical weapons facilities and a research centre for the regime. The air strikes were carried out in response to the chemical weapons attack in Douma on April 7.

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The US and France say they have evidence that poison gas was used in the attack killing at least 40 people, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad's military was behind it.

Experts from the international chemical-weapons watchdog are in Damascus waiting to visit the site of the suspected chemical attack in Douma.

On Monday, Syrian and Russian authorities prevented investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons from going to the scene, the head of the group said, blocking international efforts to establish what happened and who was to blame.

Syria and its ally Russia deny any chemical attack took place, and Russian officials went even further, accusing Britain of staging a "fake" chemical attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May accused the two countries – whose forces now control the town east of Damascus – of trying to cover up evidence.