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Syria halts flights to Damascus airport after Israeli strikes

#Syria #halts #flights #Damascus #airport #Israeli #strikes

All flights to and from Syria’s capital were grounded on Friday, the government said, after Israeli airstrikes injured at least one civilian and reportedly damaged an airport runway.

Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes against its neighbor, targeting both government forces and allied Iranian-backed forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, but rarely have such strikes caused major flight disruptions.

The war observer from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the latest attack, carried out before dawn on Friday, hit three weapons depots near Damascus airport owned by Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups.

The Syrian Ministry of Transport later announced the “suspension of incoming and outgoing flights via Damascus International Airport” as a result of technical disruptions.

“The resumption of flights should be declared as soon as the facilities and equipment are repaired to ensure the safety of operational traffic,” it said, quoted by the official news agency SANA.

An airport worker told AFP that the Israeli strikes had “affected” the facility.

“We had to postpone all flights by at least 48 hours and some flights were diverted through Aleppo Airport,” the official said on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to comment on the matter.

An Arab airline official said separately that an airport runway was hit during the Israeli attack, a development also reported by the pro-government newspaper Al-Watan.

The official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been no departures or arrivals from the airport since the strikes.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the damaged runway was the only one still operational after an Israeli attack last year rendered another inoperative.

The 2021 attacks targeted arms shipments and arms depots operated by Iran-backed groups, said the Observatory, a UK-based monitor drawing on a wide network of sources inside Syria.

The airport is in a region south of Damascus where Iran-backed groups, including Hezbollah, regularly operate.

The area surrounding the facility is a popular target for Israel, which has launched 15 airstrikes on Syria this year alone and has regularly accused Iran of using Damascus airport to send arms shipments to its allies.

– weapon depots –

The observatory said the runway hit in the attack was already in poor condition before the raids.

Syrian state media had reported on the Israeli attacks on South Damascus and said that at around 4:20 am (0120 GMT) a volley of rockets was fired from the occupied Golan Heights.

Syrian air defenses intercepted most of the missiles, but those that reached their target left at least one civilian wounded and caused material damage, SANA reported.

While Israel rarely comments on individual attacks, it has admitted to carrying out hundreds of them.

The Israeli military says the attacks are necessary to prevent its nemesis Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.

The conflict in Syria began with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to attract foreign powers and global jihadists.

The war killed almost half a million people and displaced about half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.

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