BEIRUT (Reuters) - A U.S. missile strike on an airbase near the Syrian city of Homs on Friday killed five people and wounded seven more, the Homs governor told the Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen, saying he did not expect the casualty toll to rise by much.
Homs Governor Talal Barazi, in separate remarks to Reuters, said the targeted airbase had been providing air support for army operations against Islamic State east of Palmyra, and the attack served the interests of “armed terrorist groups”.
“I believe - God willing - that the human casualties are not big, but there is material damage. We hope there are not many victims and martyrs,” he told Reuters.
U.S. President Donald Trump said he ordered missile strikes against an airfield from which a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched this week, declaring he acted in America’s “national security interest” against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Barazi told al-Mayadeen there were civilian casualties at a village next to the base, but did not elaborate.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based organization that reports on the war, said four Syrian soldiers were killed, including a senior officer. It was citing its own sources. The Syrian army could not be reached for comment.
Speaking at dawn, Barazi said rescue and fire-fighting operations had been going on for two hours at the base.
He said the attack was a form of “support for the armed terrorist groups, and it is an attempt to weaken the capabilities of the Syrian Arab Army to combat terrorism”.
Speaking to Syrian state TV, Barazi said: ”The Syrian leadership and Syrian policy will not change.
“This targeting was not the first and I don’t believe it will be the last,” he added. In separate comments to al-Mayadeen, he said: “The war against terrorism will continue.”
U.S. officials said dozens of cruise missiles were fired against the base in response to the suspected gas attack in a rebel-held area that Washington has blamed on Assad’s forces.
The Syrian government has strongly denied responsibility.
The U.S. strikes “targeted military positions in Syria and in Homs specifically” in order to publicly “serve the goals of terrorism in Syria and the goals of Israel in the long run”, Barazi added in his interview with state TV.
Reporting by Kinda Makieh in Damascus, Tom Perry and Ellen Francis in Beirut, Mohamed el-Sherif in Cairo; Writing by Ellen Francis/Tom Perry; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Nick Macfie and Raju Gopalakrishnan, Larry King