Hours after an alleged Israeli airstrike on the Damascus airport in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed the country’s policy of employing military action to prevent weapons transfers to the enemies that pose an immediate threat.
The overnight strike reportedly targeted an Iranian plane delivering weapons for pro-regime forces and Revolutionary Guards units fighting in Syria’s civil war.
“Israel is constantly working to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weaponry,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem. “Our red lines are as sharp as ever and our determination to enforce them is stronger than ever.”
According to a Hadashot TV news report Sunday morning, the Iranian Boeing-made cargo plane was loaded with weapons, and had recently landed at the Damascus International Airport from Tehran.
The strike also reportedly targeted several weapons storage rooms at the airport. Efforts were made to disguise the true purpose of the buildings, the report said, with some of the warehouses labeled “United Nations” or “DHL,” the international mail company, in an apparent effort to evade Israeli intelligence-gathering efforts.
The Syrian state news agency, SANA, reported late Saturday night that Israel had targeted the airport with missiles, activating air defenses, which shot down a number of the projectiles.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack targeted an arms depot near the airport where new weapons recently arrived for the Iranians or their Lebanese proxy, the Hezbollah terror group.
On Sunday, the monitoring group said that the alleged Israeli strike caused “substantial” damage at the airport, but had no immediate information on casualties.
There was no official Israel comment on the reported attack in Damascus.
Netanyahu appeared to link his comments Sunday to the approaching 45th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The war began on October 6 with a joint attack by Egypt and Syria on Israel. It is marked each year in Israel according to the Hebrew date of Yom Kippur, which this year falls on Wednesday.
“We must do everything to prevent war,” Netanyahu said. “Its losses destroy the lives of families and they are a gaping wound in the heart of the nation. However, if war is forced upon us, we must do everything to win with minimal losses.”
After suffering initial heavy losses in 1973, Israeli forces were able to repel the attackers. However, the decision to not attack first was controversial at the time and remains so in Israeli culture.
“Forty-five years ago, intelligence erred by holding to a mistaken assessment regarding the war intentions of Egypt and Syria,” Netanyahu continued. “When these intentions became clear beyond all doubt, and when the danger was on our very doorstep, the political leadership made a grievous mistake by not allowing a preemptive strike. We will never repeat this mistake.”
The IDF earlier this month acknowledged that it had conducted airstrikes against over 200 Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria since 2017, shedding light on its largely quiet activities across the border to prevent Tehran from establishing a permanent military presence in the war-torn country.
For years, Israel has been concerned that Iran is using opportunities presented by the Syrian civil war to entrench itself militarily in the country in order to further threaten the Jewish state — alongside the threat already posed by terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon.