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False alarm set off Syrian air defences: Pro-Assad commander

Malfunction was attributed to 'a joint electronic attack' by Israel and US
Aerial photo of the Shayrat air base after the 2017 attack (AFP)

A false alarm led to Syrian air defence missiles being fired overnight and there was no fresh attack on Syria, a commander in the regional military alliance that backs the Syrian government told Reuters.

Syrian state TV reported overnight that anti-aircraft defences had shot down missiles fired at an air base in the Homs area, and a media unit run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah said missiles had also targeted an air base near Damascus.

The commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, attributed the malfunction to "a joint electronic attack" by Israel and the United States targeting the Syrian radar system.

The issue had been dealt with by Russian experts, the commander said.

The initial reports of strikes came days after the US, UK and France bombed Syrian military facilities over a suspected gas attack in Douma.

Shayrat air base was targeted by US forces in 2017 after a suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun that Washington blamed on the Syrian government. 

"Our heroic air defences have responded to an aggression with missiles that targeted the Shayrat air base in the Homs countryside and shot them down," Syrian state TV earlier said, without specifying the number of missiles or the source of the attack.

Hezbollah's al-Manar TV had reported that six missiles targeted Shayrat and three were aimed at Dumair on Monday. Most of the missiles were downed, a Syrian military official said. 

The US said it was not involved in the reported attacks.

"There is no US military activity in that area at this time," the Defence Department said, according to Reuters.

Israel has repeatedly struck military targets linked to Iranian forces in Syria over the past three years.

Asked about the missile attack, an Israeli military spokesman told Reuters: "We don't comment on such reports."

On 9 April, Israel targeted the Syrian Tiyan facility, also known as T4, killing several Iranian fighters.

While Israel has refrained from confirming its attacks on Syria, an Israeli military official admitted to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that his country was behind the T4 strike.

"It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets - both facilities and people,” the official was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Trump has hailed last week's US-led strikes on Syria as "mission accomplished".

Pentagon officials have said the attack completed its aim of crippling Syria's chemical weapon programme.

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis said the US military action was a "one-time shot" to deter the government of Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons.

While praising the US for the strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Washington about Iranian presence in Syria.

Assad must understand that "his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endangers Syria", Netanyahu said on Sunday.