The Syrian military has reportedly started moving aircraft into the same airfield that the US attacked with 59 Tomahawk missiles in April.
Syrian forces began redistributing Su-22 and MiG-23 jets into Shayrat airfield and other parts of the country within the past week, according to two US defence officials cited in a BuzzFeed News report. The attack was estimated to have destroyed around 20% of the Syrian military’s operational aircraft.
The cruise missile strike was prompted after reports surfaced of a chemical attack in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, where more than 80 people were killed. US intelligence officials claimed that the planes used for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun had flown out of Shayrat airfield.
Since then, the Syrian government has continued to deny responsibility for the chemical attack, even though US officials not only concluded that the attack happened, but also that Russia, a key Syrian ally, knew of plans for the attack in advance.
In response to the strike, Syria’s government called it a “reckless and irresponsible act,” and vowed to “continue crushing” rebel troops in the contested region. The country has been ravaged by a six-year civil war, which has claimed the lives of an estimated 400,000 civilians, according to the United Nations.
Critics have since sounded off on what appeared to be a lacklustre effort and an obscure policy on the fighting from President Donald Trump’s administration: “Despite President Trump’s major decision to strike and deter chemical weapons use, the US still has no actual Syria strategy beyond the one the president inherited from his predecessor,” said Jennifer Cafarella, an analyst for the Institute for the Study of War in BuzzFeed News’ report. “The regime now knows what the boundaries are.”
US defence officials assert that the aircraft transfer from the Syrian regime was to be expected since the strikes were not intended to completely shut down Syria’s air assets, but instead, deny their use of chemical weapons.
“We would have expected them to return to that military base,” a defence official said to BuzzFeed News.
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