Syrian city Khan Sheikhoun hit by chemical gas attack battered by air strikes again

Civil defense members inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria, on April 5, 2017.
Civil defense members inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria, on April 5, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW/BEIRUT/LONDON (REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES) - Barely recovering from a deadly chemical gas attack earlier this week, the Syrian city of Khan Sheikhoun was struck again by air strikes on Friday (April 7) and Saturday, the CNN reported.

The report cited two activists in Khan Sheikhoun in north-western Syria as saying at least one woman was killed and three other people were injured in Saturday's strike.

It was not immediately clear who conducted the strikes.

Meanwhile, an air strike believed to have been carried out by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed 15 people, including four children, in a village west of the militants' stronghold of Raqqa on Saturday (April 8), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The air strike took place at Hanida, some 30km west of Raqqa on the southern bank of the Euphrates River, the Observatory said.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information, says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

The spokesman for the US-led coalition could not be reached for immediate comment.

Hanida is the target of a major operation led by a Kurdish-Arab alliance of fighters and backed by the US-led coalition.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have for months been advancing towards the city in the north of the country, hoping to encircle it before launching a final assault.

Meanwhile, a Russian frigate carrying cruise missiles sailed through the Bosphorus Strait on Friday (April 7) towards the Mediterranean Sea, an apparent bid by Russia to flex its military muscles following a US missile strike on a Syrian air base.

As many as 100 Russian troops were believed to be stationed at the Syrian air base that was targeted by the US.

The US strike against Syria has threatened Russian-US relations as the Kremlin, an ally of Damascus, denounced US President Donald Trump's use of force which he called a punishment for Syria's alleged chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun. The assault on the rebel-held town on Tuesday killed dozens of people.

Moscow said it would bolster Syria's air defences, and the Russian news agency Tass reported that a frigate would enter the Mediterranean Sea on Friday and visit the logistics base at Tartus, a Syrian port.

The swift developments in Syria have prompted Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Saturday to cancel a scheduled visit to Moscow next week.

"My priority is now to continue contact with the US and others in the run up to the G7 meeting on 10-11 April," said Mr Johnson, who was due to travel to Moscow on Monday.

"We deplore Russia's continued defence of the Assad regime even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians," added Mr Johnson.

He then called on Russia to do "everything possible to bring about a political settlement in Syria and work with the rest of the international community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated".

"I discussed these plans in detail with Secretary Tillerson," Mr Johnson said, adding that the US foreign minister would still visit Moscow as planned following the G7 meeting to "deliver that clear and co-ordinated message to the Russians".

Mr Johnson expressed his support to the US on Friday after it fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airfield near Homs in central Syria.

Russia, one of the main backers of the Assad regime alongside Iran, condemned the US strike, denouncing a "flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression".