Warplanes strike Syrian town hit by suspected chemical weapons attack | News | DW | 08.04.2017
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Middle East

Warplanes strike Syrian town hit by suspected chemical weapons attack

Airstrikes have struck the rebel-held positions in Syria's Khan Sheikhoun, where a suspected chemical weapons attack left dozens dead. Rising tensions have prompted Britain's foreign minister to cancel a visit to Moscow.

Fresh airstrikes on Saturday hit the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, where a suspected chemical weapons attack earlier this week killed 87 civilians, including 31 children, independent monitoring groups reported.

At least one woman was killed and another person injured in Saturday's strikes. The Local Coordination Committees, a local independent monitoring group, said the airstrikes had been conducted by Russian warplanes. However, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights did not identify the nationality of the planes in their report.

Other airstrikes reportedly launched by the US-led coalition against the "Islamic State" killed 15 civilians near Raqqa, the militant group's de facto capital.

The airstrikes took place a day after the US launched cruise missiles against a Syrian military facility believed to be the launch pad for the chemical weapons attack.

The US missile strikes raised tensions in the Syrian conflict and effectively polarized alliances for and against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

'Changed the situation fundamentally'

Following the strikes, the UK, along with other NATO nations, issued statements in support of Washington's unilateral action. British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that he had cancelled his visit to Moscow scheduled for April 10.

"Developments in Syria have changed the situation fundamentally," Johnson said in a statement.

On the other side, Russia, a key ally for Assad's regime, has suspended contact on airspace coordination in Syria in response to the US attack.

Vladimir Safronkov, Russia's deputy envoy to the UN, said on Friday that the US missile strikes undermined attempts to reset US-Russia relations, an aim that US President Donald Trump has pursued since before his electoral victory.

"The United States attacked the territory of sovereign Syria," Safronkov said during an emergency UN Security Council meeting. "We describe that attack as a flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression."

Washington has also launched an investigation into Moscow's complicity in the suspected chemical weapons attack, allegations which the Kremlin and the Syrian government deny.

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ls/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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