2 Jan 2023

Airstrikes close Syria's Damascus International Airport and kill two people

8:40 pm on 2 January 2023
Damascus International Airport.

Damascus International Airport. Photo: Google Maps

The Syrian army said an Israeli missile strike had briefly put the Damascus International Airport out of service, the latest in a string of strikes targeting Iran-linked assets.

A volley of air-launched missiles had hit the airport at 2am (local time), the Syrian army said in a statement. These had come from the direction of Lake Tiberias in Israel.

Missiles also hit targets in the south of Damascus, killing two members of the Syrian armed forces and causing some damage, the army said.

The transport ministry said in an online statement that workers had removed debris from the strikes and that flights would resume by 9am.

Earlier, two regional intelligence sources said the strikes had hit an outpost near the airport of Iran's Quds Force and militias it backs. Their presence has spread in Syria in recent years.

The Israel Defence Force did not immediately comment on the attack.

Last year, Israel intensified strikes on Damascus International and other civilian airports to disrupt Tehran's increasing use of aerial supply lines to deliver arms to allies in Syria and Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

Syria halted flights to and from the airport in June for nearly two weeks after Israeli strikes caused extensive damage to infrastructure, including a runway and a terminal.

Israel fired missiles at Damascus International again in September, when it also struck the country's second-largest civilian airport in the northern city of Aleppo, putting it out of operation for several days.

Western and regional intelligence sources say Tehran has adopted civilian air transportation as a more reliable means of ferrying military equipment to its forces and to allied fighters in Syria, following Israeli disruption of ground supply.

Israel said its so-called "campaign between wars" in Syria began a decade ago, on Jan 30, 2013, with a strike against Russian-supplied SA-17 air-defence batteries that Damascus had intended to hand over to Hezbollah.

Four such strikes took place that year, but the pace had accelerated to around one a week currently, the chief of Israel's armed forces, Lieutenant-General Aviv Kohavi, said last month.

Iran's proxy militias, led by Lebanon's Hezbollah, now hold sway in vast areas in eastern, southern and northwestern Syria and in several suburbs around the capital.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has never publicly acknowledged that Iranian forces operate on his behalf in Syria's civil war, saying Tehran has only military advisers on the ground.

Kohavi last month claimed credit for an air strike on a convoy that had entered Syria from Iraq, saying the target had been a truck carrying Iranian weaponry.

- Reuters

A previous version of this article included four edits - the intro removed attribution. 

"Say" was replaced with "claim" in the line: Western and regional intelligence sources say.

"Proxy militias" was replaced with "allies" in this paragraph: Iran's proxy militias, led by Lebanon's Hezbollah, now hold sway in vast areas in eastern, southern and northwestern Syria and in several suburbs around the capital.

The final paragraph was edited to say "claiming" rather than "saying" and removed "claimed credit".

* This story was edited inappropriately and has been corrected. RNZ is concerned and takes this matter extremely seriously. We are investigating and have taken appropriate action.

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