Israeli official: Iran wants to open second front in Syria

Syria accuses Israel of bombing Aleppo airport for second time in 3 days

Rockets fired earlier from Syria at Israel; airport again out of service, reportedly shortly after it was repaired following Thursday strikes that also targeted Damascus airport

Illustrative: Footage purported to show a strike on the Aleppo airport in Syria, October 14, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Illustrative: Footage purported to show a strike on the Aleppo airport in Syria, October 14, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israeli airstrikes targeted the airport of Syria’s government-held city of Aleppo late Saturday, putting it out of order, the country’s defense ministry claimed, hours after rockets were fired at Israel from Syria and days after a similar strike hit Aleppo and Damascus airports.

“At approximately 11:35 p.m… the Israeli enemy carried out an airstrike from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea… targeting Aleppo International Airport, causing material damage to the airport and putting it out of service,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry lambasted Israel, saying that the attack “confirms the criminal approach of the Israeli occupation,” accusing it of “crimes against the Palestinian people.”

While the Israel Defense Forces did not provide a comment on the claims, a senior Foreign Ministry official accused Iran of trying to deploy arms in Syria to attack Israel and said Jerusalem was taking action to foil that effort.

Joshua Zarka, head of strategic affairs at the ministry, responded to Joel Rayburn, director of the American Center for Levant Studies, who suggested on X (formerly Twitter) that Iran was working to move weapons into Syria to open a second front against Israel, and that the Israeli military was taking action in response.

“1. They are. 2. We are.” responded Zarka.

On Thursday, Israeli strikes knocked Syria’s two main airports of Damascus and Aleppo out of service, in the first such attack since the Hamas assault on Israel a week ago triggered fierce fighting.

Multiple reports indicated Saturday that the renewed attack on the Aleppo airport had come shortly after the runway was repaired and the airport went back into service.

Earlier Saturday, the IDF said two rockets were launched from Syria toward northern Israel, setting off sirens in the Golan Heights town of Avnei Eitan.

The IDF said both rockets landed in open areas, causing no damage.

The military added that it had responded with artillery shelling toward the source of the rocket fire.

The incident happened amid escalating fighting on Israel’s border with Lebanon.

War erupted after Hamas’s October massacre, which saw at least 1,500 terrorists cross the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing about 1,300 people and seizing 150-200 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 as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes.

Israel has retaliated with artillery and airstrikes, and officials from the Hamas-controlled health ministry estimate more than 2,200 Palestinians have been killed in the ferocious fighting, in addition to some 1,500 terrorists killed in Israeli territory. Israel says it is targeting terrorist infrastructure and all areas where Hamas operates or hides out, while issuing evacuation warnings to civilians in regions it plans to attack.

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)

Previous strikes this year, blamed on Israel, have repeatedly caused the grounding of flights at the airports in the capital Damascus and northern city Aleppo, both of which are controlled by the government of war-torn Syria.

As a rule, the IDF does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, though it has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country, over the last decade. Thousands of Iran-backed fighters from around the region joined Syria’s 12-year civil war to help tip the balance in favor of President Bashar Assad’s forces.

The military says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group. Additionally, airstrikes attributed to Israel have repeatedly targeted Syrian air defense systems.

Israel has repeatedly accused the Syrian military of actively assisting the Iran-backed Hezbollah in the area.

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