April 17, 2018 / 12:13 AM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 2-Syrian air defences shoot down missiles over two air bases -state TV, Hezbollah

(Adds another base fired at, details and background)

AMMAN, April 17 (Reuters) - Syrian anti-aircraft defences shot down missiles fired at the Syrian air base of Shayrat in Homs province late on Monday and another base northeast of the capital, Damascus, Syria’s state television and pro-Iranian Hezbollah media said.

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

State television did not mention three missiles that were fired at Dumair military airport, northeast of Damascus, that pro-Iranian Hezbollah’s media service reported were intercepted by Syrian air defences.

Opposition sources say Dumair airport is a major air base used in a large-scale military campaign waged by the Syrian army with Russian firepower that regained eastern Ghouta, a rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus.

A Pentagon spokesman said there was no U.S. military activity in that area at this time.

Asked about the missile attack, an Israeli military spokesman said: “We don’t comment on such reports.”

Shayrat air base was targeted last year in a U.S. 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 many times in the course of the conflict, hitting convoys and bases of Iranian-backed militias that fight alongside Syrian President Bashar al- Assad’s forces.

Israel has long said Iran was expanding its influence in a belt of territory that stretches from the Iraqi border to the Lebanese border, where Israel says Iran supplies Hezbollah with arms.

Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias have a large military presence in Syria and are well entrenched in central and eastern areas near the Iraqi border.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman; Additional reporting by Nayera Abdullah in Cairo, Yara Bayoumy in Washington and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney

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