by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DAMASCUS, Syria — On Tuesday, April 4th, the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun was hit with a chemical attack that left hundreds of civilians, including many children, dead or injured. This Friday and Saturday, April 7th and 8th, the same town was hit once more with a new wave of airstrikes.
Activist Alaa Al-Youssef stated that Saturday’s attack in Khan Sheikhoun targeted a residential neighborhood. The attack reportedly killed one woman and injured her son, while wounding three others.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that Russian planes had carried out the attack with the support of the Syrian government. However, despite the fact that only Russian and Syrian aircrafts have been bombing the town of Khan Sheikhoun, it was not clear which party directed the second wave of attacks. It was also not clear where the missiles had been launched from. However, Russia, which is the main ally of the Syrian regime, had sent a frigate armed with cruise missiles to a port in western Syria. Russia’s decision to send the armed frigate was characterized as a “show of force” in response to the United States.
The latest attacks on Friday and Saturday appear to be retaliatory, and in response to Friday morning’s missile strike by the United States. The United States’ attack had targeted a military base in western Syria used to launch Tuesday’s chemical attack but led to the deaths of nine people. However, despite the fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles that hit this target on Friday morning, the Syrian air force has already resumed its flight operations from this base. On Saturday, a reporter for a state-run Russian network posted a video on Instagram showing a jet rolling down the tarmac at the air force base with the caption “Return to work at Shayrat.”
G-7 foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Italy on Monday and Tuesday to build “coordinated international support for a ceasefire on the ground and an intensified political process.” Supporters of the Syrian opposition, such as Turkey, heralded the United States’ Friday morning attack, however, other countries, such as Russia and Iran, had the opposite reaction by “harshly condemn[ing]” it. The Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mr. Mevlut Cavusoglu, warned that Friday’s attack by the United States would remain purely “cosmetic” if Syria’s regime is not removed from power and if the intervention does not continue.
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