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Syria warns Israel ‘playing with fire’ after alleged nighttime airstrikes

Damascus’s foreign minister says Jerusalem risking wider military conflict after Israeli jets allegedly bombed Aleppo and Damascus airports

Then Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks to reporters in Damascus, Syria, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
Then Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks to reporters in Damascus, Syria, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad issued a harsh warning to Israel on Thursday after Damascus accused Jerusalem of airstrikes targeting two major airports the previous night.

Mekdad said Israel was “playing with fire” and risking a wider military conflict, according to Arabic media reports.

Syria’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “The ongoing Israeli military aggressions threaten to explode the security and military situation in the region.

“Syria will not remain silent in the face of these aggressions, and sooner or later the Israelis will pay the price.”

The ministry accused the US and the West of “turning a blind eye and encouraging Israel.”

On Wednesday night, Syria said Israel carried out two consecutive airstrikes, the first against Aleppo International Airport and the second near the capital Damascus.

A fire is reportedly seen at the Aleppo International Airport in northern Syria following an airstrike attributed to Israel, August 31, 2022. (Social media)

According to the state-run SANA news agency, the first airstrike caused damage to the airport in northern Syria. It did not provide further details.

Aleppo is a major city in northern Syria, near its border with Turkey, and is an uncommon, though not unprecedented, target for reported Israeli airstrikes.

Shortly after the strike on Aleppo, SANA said air defenses were engaging another Israeli airstrike, over the capital Damascus. The news agency claimed that a number of “hostile missiles” were downed over Damascus and the surrounding countryside. Syria regularly claims to intercept Israeli missiles, though military analysts doubt such assertions.

SANA said damage was caused to several sites that were hit in the attack near Damascus, without elaborating further.

According to a NOTAM (notice to airmen), the runway at the Aleppo airport was damaged, along with a navigational system used to aid aircraft in staying on course.

Another NOTAM stated that the same radio navigation system was out of service at the Damascus airport too, indicating it was possibly damaged in the airstrikes. Still, planes continued to land at the airport throughout Thursday.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in the alleged attacks.

As a rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but has admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country. It says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanese Hezbollah.

According to Aurora Intel, a network that provides news and updates based on open-source intelligence, a sanctioned Iranian cargo plane had landed at the Aleppo airport earlier Wednesday.

Earlier this year, airstrikes attributed to Israel caused major damage to the Damascus International Airport, halting all air traffic for two weeks.

Generally, relatively large weapons are thought to be smuggled via Syria on Iranian cargo airlines, which frequently land at Damascus International and the Tiyas, or T-4, airbase, outside of the central Syrian city of Palmyra. The weaponry is then believed to be stored in warehouses in the area before being trucked to Lebanon.

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