The Syrian opposition applauded a US cruise missile attack on an airbase near Homs on Friday but said it must not be a one-off and was not enough on its own to stop government warplanes from hitting rebel-held areas.
The Syrian opposition has long criticised the United States for failing to protect rebel-held areas from government air strikes, demanding the creation of a no-fly zone or the provision of anti-aircraft weapons to rebel groups.
US President Donald Trump’s decision to launch missiles at the airbase, from which he said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched, marked a dramatic departure from the more cautious approach of his predecessor Barack Obama. It was welcomed by opposition officials, but they called for more.
“One airbase is not enough. There are 26 airbases that target civilians,” tweeted Mohammad Alloush, a senior rebel official. George Sabra, a prominent opposition politician, told al-Hadath TV: “The truth is that militarily, if it is limited to this strike, then it has no meaning.”
The Free Syrian Army, a loose alliance of rebel groups that includes factions that have received military support from the United States, called the US strike the “correct starting point” for finding a “just political solution” to the war
“We view that the responsibility of the United States is still great, and does not stop with this operation,” it added in a statement, warning that the Damascus government and its allies could commit “acts of revenge” against civilians.
American officials described the attack - the first direct US assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad in six years of civil war - as a one-off that would not lead to wider escalation. Syrian officials and their allies also said they did not expect the attack to lead to an expansion of the conflict.
Act of aggression
Meanwhile, Syrian state television called a US strike on a Syrian airbase an act of aggression on Friday, quoting a military source saying there had been unspecified losses. “US act of aggression against Syrian military targets, using several missiles,” the channel said in a news alert soon after the US announced the strike.
“One of our air bases in the centre of the country was targeted at dawn by a missile fired by the United States, causing loses,” the station then quoted a military source as saying. The source provided no further details on the nature of the losses.
“This American aggression follows the slanderous media campaign by some countries... after what happened in Khan Sheikhun,” state news agency SANA said, referring to the town in northwestern Syria where a suspected chemical attack killed dozens of civilians this week.