The US and France have denied Russian claim that Syrian air defence had intercepted at least 71 cruise missiles fired by the US, the UK and French forces early on Saturday.
“None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defences,” Lieutenant-General Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said at a press briefing on Saturday.
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He said there were no known civilian casualties, but noted Syria had fired about 40 unguided surface-to-air missiles, most of which didn’t launch until after the allied strike was over.
“When you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it’s going to come down somewhere,” McKenzie said.
Earlier, French officials said that they believed none of their missiles was intercepted.
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Saturday, Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy had said that at least 103 cruise missiles, including Tomahawks, were fired into a number of targets in Syria.
“Russia has fully restored the air defence system of Syria, and it continues to improve it over the last six months,” Rudskoy said.
The Russian defence ministry was quoted as saying that Syria deployed Russian-made surface-to-air missiles, including S-125, S-200, 2K12 Kub and Buk to repel the attacks.
Among those targeted by the US-led operation was the Al-Dumayr military airport outside of Damascus. Russia said all 12 missiles directed at the airport were intercepted.
In his statement, Rudskoy confirmed at least one US Navy warship in the Mediterranean and US B-1 bomber were involved in the operation, as well as UK Tornado fighters.
The US-led strikes on Saturday came after a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime in the former rebel stronghold of Douma last week.
The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force said four Tornado GR4s fighters jets joined in the operation, while France said it has deployed Mirage and Rafale fighter jets.
French officials said its military had fired at least 12 missiles into Syria.
|A British pilot checks the weapons on his Tornado jet in Cyprus after its mission in Syria [AP]|
Earlier, the office of France’s President Emanuel Macron said the country’s air force fired missiles from its Mirage and Rafale fighter jets.
On Friday, the US Navy said it was moving additional Tomahawk missile-armed ship within striking distance of Syria.
Tomahawks can carry up to a 1,000-pound warhead at a range of 900 nautical miles (1,667km). It is guided by GPS “enabling highly accurate precision attack”, according to a 2016 Pentagon report.
A statement from the British Ministry of Defence said it has deployed at least four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s in the strike.
The RAF Tornado fighter jets took off from the British airbase in Akrotiri, Cyprus.
The Tornado fighter is capable of carrying GPS-guided bombs, Brimstone air-to-ground missiles and the 2,860-pound Storm Shadow cruise missiles, as well as air-to-air missiles.
In April 2017, the US targeted a Syrian airbase from where it alleged a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched by the Assad regime against civilians at the town of Khan Sheikhoun. At least 85 people, including children, were killed in that attack.
Assad’s government and its ally, Russia, have called the allegations “fabrications”.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies