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US official: Syrian aircraft moved from base struck by US missiles

Fredex8/iStock/Thinkstock(LATAKIA, Syria) -- A U.S. official says that Syria has moved all of the aircraft from the airbase that was struck by U.S. missiles two weeks ago to an airbase used by Russia for missions within Syria.

The aircraft, the official says, have been moved to a base in Latakia. That base has been used by Russian fixed-wing aircraft.

The move could be seen as a tactical one, protecting Syrian aircraft by housing them in the same location as Russian aircraft.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week that the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on April 7 had destroyed about 20 percent of the Syria's operational aircraft. That number implied that Syria has less than 100 operational military aircraft in its inventory.

After the U.S. strike, Russia said it would suspend its participation in a hotline with the United States military to “deconflict” or minimize the risk of mid-air collisions in Syrian airspace, but U.S. officials said this week that the two militaries continued to communicate.

“We are deconflicting with the Russians ... and we will continue to deconflict," Secretary of Defense Mattis said on Tuesday, kicking off his trip to the Middle East and Africa.

The American strike against the Syrian airstrip two weeks ago came in the wake of a devastating chemical weapons attack from Syrian president Bashar Assad that killed at least 87 civilians, including 31 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The United States launched 59 cruise missiles in a strike intended to damage the infrastructure of the airstrip from which the U.S. believes the chemical weapons attack was launched. It was the first direct U.S. attack on the Syrian government's facilities.

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