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Syria missile attack 'false alarm', state media says

Syrian state TV initially claimed an air base had come under missile attack [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 April, 2018

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State media reports that Syrian regime air defences shot down missiles over the central Homs region have been retracted.
A Syrian state report that regime air defences shot down missiles fired over central Homs early on Tuesday has been retracted as a "false alarm".

Syrian state television had earlier reported missiles were shot down by the Assad regime's air defences. It didn't say who carried out the overnight airstrikes.

Syrian Central Media, which described the incidents as confrontation of a new "aggression", said the missiles targeted Shayrat air base in Homs. 

Big explosions were heard overnight near the air base and near Damascus where two other air bases are located, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Neither the Pentagon, which led punitive strikes on Syrian regime targets at the weekend, nor Israel, which was blamed for an earlier strike on a Syrian air base earlier this month, claimed responsibility.

Syrian state news agency SANA later retracted the report, saying its air defences were triggered by a "false alarm".

"Last night, a false alarm that Syrian air space had been penetrated triggered the blowing of air defence sirens and the firing of several missiles," a military source said. 

"There was no external attack on Syria," the source added.

The report comes days after the US, Britain and France conducted airstrikes targeting chemical weapons facilities in Syria, in retaliation for a suspected gas attack on Douma, which the Western allies blamed on the brutal Syrian regime.

Experts from the international chemical weapons watchdog are in Damascus and are expected to visit the site on Wednesday, after Syrian and Russian authorities prevented them from going to the scene on Monday, citing "security" reasons.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria. 

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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