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Syria halts flights at Damascus airport after runway hit in alleged Israeli strike

State media reports ‘some technical equipment stopped functioning at the airport’ without mentioning attack that it earlier blamed on Israel

Illustrative: This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows missiles in the sky near the international airport, in Damascus, Syria, on January 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)
Illustrative: This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows missiles in the sky near the international airport, in Damascus, Syria, on January 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria on Friday halted flights to and from Damascus International Airport, the transport ministry said, after Israeli airstrikes damaged a runway, according to sources.

The ministry said the “suspension of incoming and outgoing flights through Damascus International Airport” was due to technical disruptions, but an airport employee told AFP that the Israeli strikes at dawn had “affected” the facility.

“We had to postpone all flights for at least 48 hours and some flights have been rerouted through Aleppo airport,” the airport employee said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the issue.

An official at an Arab airline who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said separately that an airport landing strip had been hit during the Israeli assault — a development the pro-government newspaper Al-Watan also reported.

State news agency SANA confirmed that all flights have been suspended because “some technical equipment stopped functioning at the airport.” It did not mention a strike.

The airport is located south of Damascus. Flightradar24 showed no flights in the vicinity of the airport on Friday at noon.

The announcement came hours after Syria’s state media reported Israeli airstrikes on some military positions south of Damascus early Friday, wounding one person and causing material damage.

It was the second air raid attributed to Israel this week. Late Monday night, Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles targeted Syrian army positions also south of Damascus, causing damage but no casualties.

Illustrative: Footage released by Syrian state media on April 27, 2022, claims to show Syrian air defenses firing at an Israeli attack near Damascus. (Screenshot)

There has been no comments on the strikes from Israel, which rarely publicizes such attacks.

Also this week, Israeli tanks reportedly shelled a Syrian military position in a demilitarized part of the Golan Heights.

Last month, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson alleged the son-in-law of assassinated Iran Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani of smuggling weapons from Iran to its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah using civilian flights via Syria.

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

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. It says it targets bases of Iran-allied militias, such as Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group that has fighters deployed in Syria and fighting on the side of Assad’s government forces, as well as arms shipments believed to be bound for the militias.

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.

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