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US cruise missile strikes target Syria's Su-22 fleet

US cruise missile strikes launched against a Syrian air base in the early hours of 7 April have delivered a significant blow to the nation's air force.

A total of 59 Raytheon Tomahawk land-attack missiles were launched from US Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean during the action, which was conducted in response to a chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on 4 April, which killed at least 86 people.

Washington blames the Syrian air force for staging the attack using nerve agents, and assessed that it was mounted from the targeted Al-Shayrat air base using Sukhoi Su-22 ground-attack aircraft.

The US Department of Defense lists targets for the 7 April strike as having included "aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defence systems and radars".

Israeli sources indicate that 14 of the Syrian air force's approximately 40-strong fleet of Su-22s were destroyed in the attack, with additional assets including helicopters also having been struck. Significant damage was caused to the air base's two main runways, they add.

According to US sources, Russia and Israel were notified about the attack shortly before the cruise missiles hit their targets. Moscow supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has a major military presence in the country, including combat aircraft.

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