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Alleged Israeli strike said to prevent Iran from landing weapon systems in Syria

Attack on May 20 that hit the Damascus International Airport damaged runways, satellite imagery shows, reportedly keeping Iran from landing Boeing 747 cargo planes

Illustrative: Footage of Israeli strikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in southern Syria following an attempted explosive attack by Iranian-backed operatives against Israeli troops on the Golan Heights, November 18, 2020 (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Footage of Israeli strikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in southern Syria following an attempted explosive attack by Iranian-backed operatives against Israeli troops on the Golan Heights, November 18, 2020 (Israel Defense Forces)

An unusual surface-to-surface missile attack targeting Damascus International Airport that took place two weeks ago and was attributed to Israel was successful in damaging some runways, preventing large cargo planes from landing at the airport.

As a result, Iran has been unable to land the Boeing 747 cargo planes it uses to deliver systems equipped with guidance technology for upgrading existing missiles into precision-guided missiles, Channel 12 news reported Tuesday.

Citing satellite imagery of the Syrian airport following the alleged attack, the report noted that runways at the site were bombed on both ends, shortening them significantly and preventing large planes from landing.

According to the report, the strategic strike achieved its purpose and helped address an issue of great concern for Israel — Iranian weapons and missile-improving systems shipped from Iran to its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah through Syria.

Israel has admitted to carrying out hundreds of sorties over Syria in the last decade, mostly to stymie attempts by the Islamic Republic to transfer weapons or establish a foothold in a country that borders Israel.

The attack that hit the Damascus International Airport on May 20, however, was unusual in that it used surface-to-surface missiles launched from the Golan Heights, the Syrian state-run broadcaster SANA reported.

The report noted that most of the missiles were intercepted. However, the Syrian military claims to shoot down incoming missiles after nearly every alleged Israeli strike, which Israeli military officials and civilian defense analysts largely dismiss as empty boasts.

Three Syrian soldiers were reportedly killed in the strike, which was the second within a week to target the country.

The strike came hours after the Israel Defense Forces’ Arabic-language spokesperson accused the son-in-law of slain Iran Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani of smuggling weapons from Iran to its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah using civilian flights via Syria.

Illustrative: An Iran Air Boeing 747 passenger plane sitting on the tarmac of the domestic Mehrabad airport in the Iranian capital Tehran, January 15, 2013. (AFP/Behrouz Mehri)

Avichay Adraee accused Iran and Hezbollah of “endangering civilians” by smuggling the armaments via civilian flights to Damascus International Airport in order “to maintain secrecy.”

There was no immediate comment from the IDF following the strike.

Israeli strikes have continued in Syrian airspace, which is largely controlled by Russia, even as ties with Moscow have deteriorated in recent weeks. Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it has increasingly supported Ukraine while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies.

Most recently, Syria accused Israel of launching strikes in its territory overnight Monday. A Twitter account tracking Israeli military activity in the country claimed the strikes targeted sites in the suburb of al-Kiswah, south of Damascus and near the Damascus International Airport, southeast of the city.

Emanuel Fabian and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report. 

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