Israeli strikes said to knock Damascus, Aleppo airports out of commission

One worker killed in attack on airport in capital, state-run news agency claims, with airports damaged for third time in 10 days as Israel looks to keep arms from Hezbollah

Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad stand in line holding Palestinian flags during a rally at the Yarmouk refugee camp south of Syria's capital Damascus on October 21, 2023. (LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)
Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad stand in line holding Palestinian flags during a rally at the Yarmouk refugee camp south of Syria's capital Damascus on October 21, 2023. (LOUAI BESHARA / AFP)

Israeli planes carried out strikes on airports in Aleppo and Damascus early Sunday, knocking both out of service, Syria’s state-run media said, marking the third such attack in 10 days.

One civilian worker was killed and another wounded in the strike on the Damascus airport, the SANA state news agency said.

Runways in both airports were damaged, causing all flights in and out of both airports to be canceled or diverted to an airport in coastal Latakia, SANA said. Official notices to international aviation authorities, known as NOTAMs, indicated that the runways would be unusable for at least two days.

According to SANA, Israeli missiles fired from the Golan Heights hit the Damascus International Airport, and jets flying over the Mediterranean near Latakia struck Aleppo International Airport in Syria’s second city. The strikes came simultaneously at around 5:35 a.m., it said.

The reported attacks come as tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group have brought the two to the cusp of all-out battle, and with the Israel Defense Forces gearing up for a ground invasion of Gaza to uproot the Hamas terror group, responsible for massacring some 1,400 people in southern Israel two weeks ago.

There was no immediate comment on the strikes from the Israeli military, which does not generally report on individual strikes.

Illustrative: Photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a bulldozer working on a damaged runway of the Damascus International Airport, which Syria said was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Damascus, Syria, June 12, 2022. (SANA via AP)

Both airports have been struck numerous times over the past year, as Israel is believed to be stepping up efforts to prevent the shipment of advanced weapons from Iran to its various Middle East proxies, chief among them Hezbollah.

Both airports were hit on October 12 and Aleppo was targeted a second time on October 14, according to Syria.

Following the second strike, a senior Foreign Ministry official on X confirmed a claim that Iran was trying to deploy arms in Syria to attack Israel and indicated Jerusalem was taking action to foil that effort.

There are concerns that Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has an arsenal consisting of tens of thousands of rockets and missiles as well as different types of drones, might try to open a new front in the Israel-Hamas war with a large-scale attack on northern Israel.

Saturday saw several skirmishes along Israel’s border with Lebanon, leaving six Hezbollah fighters dead, according to the terror group. Three Israeli soldiers were wounded, one seriously, in one of several cross-border missile attacks. Two Thai laborers were injured in a separate attack.

The fighting showed little sign of abating Sunday morning, with the IDF reporting that it struck a terror cell in southern Lebanon that was planning to carry out an anti-tank guided missile attack against the northern community of Avivim.

Israel said Sunday it would begin evacuating 14 more communities near the northern border, in addition to 28 towns and villages that already cleared out. Many residents of the north have already decamped to other areas of the country.

Smoke rises from inside an Israeli army position which was hit by missiles launched by the Hezbollah terror group, as seen from Tair Harfa village, a Lebanese border village with Israel, south Lebanon, October 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The strikes in Syria appeared to mark the fourth simultaneous arena where the IDF is being engaged, in addition to Gaza, the Lebanon border, and the West Bank, which has also heated up in recent days.

On Saturday, the deputy head of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem, said his group, which is allied with Hamas, already was affecting the course of the conflict by heating up the Lebanon-Israel border and keeping troops tied up in the north instead of preparing to fight in Gaza.

“Do you believe that if you try to crush the Palestinian resistance, other resistance fighters in the region will not act?” Qassem said in a speech during the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter in Lebanon. “We are in the heart of the battle today. We are making achievements through this battle.”

A Hezbollah supporter holds a placard with Arabic words thats read ” We are with you Gaza” during a rally in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Friday, October 20, 2023. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 2,500 terrorists cross the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing about 1,400 people and seizing over 200 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

The vast majority of those killed and kidnapped as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly — including entire families executed in their homes.

Israel has responded with an air campaign against Hamas and allied groups in Gaza, killing over 4,000 people, according to Hamas health authorities, whose numbers cannot be independently verified.

Young men look at photos of Israelis missing and held hostage in Gaza, displayed on a wall in Tel Aviv, on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The IDF has prepared a large ground offensive to eliminate Hamas, but military officials have admitted that conditions in the north have played into decision-making on when to put boots on the ground.

On Saturday, IDF spokesman Real Adm. Daniel Hagari said Gaza remained the army’s focus, though it was keeping a close eye on the northern border.

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