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Syrian military jets fly from air base hit by US missiles: Rights group

Syrian warplanes have 'done the impossible' by operating out of struck air base, says Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
According to Pentagon, initial indications show US strikes severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft, infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat (AFP)

Syrian warplanes took off from an air base that was hit by US cruise missiles on Friday, and carried out air strikes on rebel-held areas in the eastern Homs countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The extent of the damage to the Shayrat air base was not entirely clear, but the group said the Syrian warplanes had "done the impossible" in order to continue using it for sorties.

The British-based Observatory, a group monitoring the Syrian war using sources on the ground, said eight people were killed in the US attack.
According to the Pentagon, initial indications showed the strike had severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft, infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat.

A Syrian military spokesperson said on state TV that the US missiles hit both runways and damaged numerous bunkers, including some decommissioned aircraft.

The US Navy fired dozens of missiles at the air base near Homs city in response to a chemical attack earlier this week that Washington and its allies blamed on the Damascus government.

According to an ABC report, Russian soldiers utilised the airfield in 2016, but had recalled their officers. The report, citing local residents, added that Syrian and Iranian forces primarily operate the base.

In a Middle East Eye report on Friday morning, Barak Barfi, an analyst with the New America Foundation think-tank, said the strike accomplished little from a tactical standpoint.

"Launching 59 Tomahawk missiles against an isolated airfield without taking out [Syrian president Bashar] Assad's command and control assets or fixed-wing aircraft begs questions about what message we're trying to send with this air strike," he said.

Richard Clarke, a foreign correspondent for ABC, said the strike was merely "symbolic".

"This attack on one air base seems more symbolic," Clarke said. "I think Secretary of Defense James Mattis gave the president a list of options, this being the smallest. It was a targeted attack not designed to overwhelm the Syrian military ... I think the president was trying to differentiate himself from his predecessor."

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