BEIRUT (Reuters) - A U.S. missile strike on an airbase near the Syrian city of Homs on Friday caused deaths but is not believed to have resulted in “big human casualties”, Homs Governor Talal Barazi said.
Barazi said the attack served the interests of “armed terrorist groups” including Islamic State, adding that the targeted airbase had been providing air support for army operations against Islamic State east of Palmyra.
Barazi was speaking in a series of phone interviews with media on Friday. He confirmed deaths at the airbase in a phone interview with Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen.
“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 by telephone.
Speaking at dawn, he 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. 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.
U.S. officials said the military fired dozens of cruise missiles 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