US defense secretary says Syria scatters warplanes, retains chemical weapons

According to the official, the Israeli military was briefed in advance of the US launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Al Shayrat Airbase, from which warplanes belonging to the Syrian regime carried out a chemical gas attack.

The regime moved its warplanes to a Russian air base in Latakia, presumably in case of a second USA missile attack.

'We consider it a provocation for a very simple reason: if it had been a gas leak or an attack, and it is said that about 60 people died there, how come the people in the city are going about with their life as before?' Al-Assad asked.

In the same statement charging Syria with keeping chemical weapons, Mattis also said that the Syrian army had "dispersed their aircraft in recent days".

Mattis said "military to military relationship. has always been good" between Israel and United States, "but I will just tell you that we intend to make it the strongest ever and work with all our friends in the region and elsewhere in terms of security".

In a joint press conference with Lieberman following their meeting, Mattis said that Iran continues to threaten Israel with ballistic missiles, and accused Tehran of using the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to prop up embattled Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad.

In a 2013 agreement brokered by Russian Federation and the United States, Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons.

Since then, the USA has systematically blocked demands by Syria and its two principal allies, Russian Federation and Iran, for an objective investigation of the alleged chemical attack by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Assad reiterated the Syrian stance that no chemical attack ever took place in Idlib.

"We think it was fabricated..."

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Friday.

Russian Federation has maintained a naval base in Tartus since the 1970s, and though the diplomatic relationship between the two countries waned after the collapse of Communism, and the rollback of Moscow's worldwide reach, the base, alongside an aerial facility in Khmeimim, built in 2015, have played a key role in the conflict.

The two countries are working to set a more positive tone after eight years of friction under President Donald Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

A few hours later sirens wailed on the Israeli held side of the Golan Heights warning of incoming rockets from Syria, the Israeli military said.

Last month, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syria conflict began, Israeli warplanes struck several targets there, drawing retaliatory missile fire.

Israel has been largely unaffected by the Syrian civil war raging next door, suffering mostly sporadic, spillover, incidents of fire.

  • Leroy Wright