Syria says Israeli strikes disable Damascus airport
The attack marked the first time the airport had been closed due to damage from such strikes. The Department for Transport said the “brutal” attack had caused all flights to be halted until further notice. Syrian Airlines, the national carrier, said it would refund travelers or reschedule canceled trips. Cham Wings, Syria’s first private national carrier, said it had re-routed all its flights to Aleppo airport and was providing all travelers with free transport between Damascus and Aleppo – a bus ride lasting several hours.
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Damascus airport, the country’s main international hub, had been largely spared during past strikes. Positions had previously been struck near and around the facility, including in 2018 when the Israeli military said it responded to rocket fire by hitting dozens of Iran-linked military targets in Syria, including warehouses ammunition storage at the airport.
Friday’s attack was condemned by the United Nations, which denounced the strike as a center of civilian activity and warned of the humanitarian repercussions the closure of the airport will have on more than 2 million people .
“Targeting civilian objects and infrastructure is contrary to international and humanitarian law,” Imran Riza, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Syria, said in a statement. “Humanitarian air services must resume without delay so that emergency aid can continue to reach those in need.”
The Transport Ministry did not initially blame Israel for the strikes, instead saying the flights were suspended “due to the breakdown of some technical equipment”. Later in the day, however, the ministry said an Israeli attack targeted airport infrastructure, damaging runways, navigation lights and a hall inside the airport.
The full extent of the damage was not immediately clear. The state-run SANA news agency later reported that a citizen was injured and that the strikes hit two runways, including the main one, and an “equipment room”.
A local television channel showed footage of Prime Minister Hussein Arnous walking through the airport amid small piles of rubble and a torn building facade, with concrete spilled on the ground. Heavy machinery worked on clearing a large crater in one of the tracks.
Last month, Avichay Adraee, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, said Iran was sending strategic weapons to Hezbollah on civilian flights between Iran and Damascus, “which exposes civilians to serious danger”.
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Russia and Iran, staunch allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, condemned the attack, but a Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese newspaper, which often serves as the group’s mouthpiece, offered insight into heightened tensions between the Russians and the Syrians and the Iranians.
Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Monday that Syrian military sources had described “spirited” disputes in recent weeks between the two sides over Israel’s attacks on Syria and the lack of an appropriate Russian response – even before the most recent hit.
According to the report, when the Syrian-Iranian side asked them to end Israeli attacks on infrastructure in accordance with a previous agreement, Russian commanders said they were not obliged to clash with Israel to protect the interests. Iranians.
Nader Durgham in Beirut and Shira Rubin in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.