Syria Claims ‘Significant’ Damage to Airport From Israeli Strike

Damascus International Airport. (Bangin)

DAMASCUS (AP) — An Israeli airstrike that struck Damascus International Airport caused “significant” damage to infrastructure and rendered the main runway unserviceable until further notice, Syria said Saturday.

The statement by the Transportation Ministry was the first detailing the extent of damage from Friday’s airstrike.

The IDF has declined to comment on the airstrike.

Saturday’s statement said the runway had been damaged “in several locations” and that the strike also hit the airport’s second terminal building.

“As a result of these damages, incoming and outgoing flights through the airport were suspended until further notice,” it said.

The airport is located south of the capital Damascus where Syrian opposition activists say Iran-backed militiamen are active and have arms depots.

Israel has for years carried out strikes in the area, including one on May 21 that resulted in a fire near the airport leading to the postponement of two flights. This was the first time an airstrike caused damage leading to the suspension of flights at the airport.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the Friday morning Israeli strike hit three arms depots for Iran-backed militiamen inside the airport, adding that the northern runway at the facility was damaged, as was the observation tower.

The Observatory added that the northern runway was the only one functioning after Israeli strikes last year badly damaged the other runway, known as the southern runway.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. It says it targets bases of Iran-allied militias, such as Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group. Hezbollah has fighters deployed in Syria fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces and ships arms believed to be bound for the militias.

The Syrian Transportation Ministry statement said civil aviation cadres and specialized units were working to remove debris and repair damage and that operations will resume as soon as flight safety can be ensured.

Meanwhile, Syria halted flights to and from Damascus International Airport “until further notice” on Friday, the transport ministry said.

Cham Wings Airline, a private Syrian carrier, said it was rerouting all its flights to Aleppo International Airport.

The transport ministry said the airport had stopped all flights, and a later statement said Israeli air strikes damaged the runway and one of the terminals.

“As a result of this damage, all arriving and departing flights at the airport have been suspended until further notice,” the ministry’s second statement said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian condemned the attack as a “clear violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity… (and) contrary to international law and human principles,” in a phone call with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad, Iran’s state media reported.

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