Reported Israeli Strike Kills 4, Puts Damascus Airport Out of Service
i24News – A reported Israeli strike in the Damascus area early Monday killed four people and put the Damascus International Airport out of service, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Missile barrages came from the direction of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, according to Syrian reports, hitting the airport and putting it out of service. Both runways at the Damascus airport were closed following the strike, according to an official notice sent by Syrian aviation authorities.
A correspondent for Syria’s state media SANA said Syrian air defenses responded to the attack. The missiles also struck “positions for Hezbollah and pro-Iranian groups inside the airport and its surroundings, including a weapons warehouse,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the SOHR, told AFP.
This is the first reported Israeli strike in Syria in 2023, and is also the first since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office. Former senior intelligence officer Raphael Jerusalmy told i24News that Netanyahu apparently got the green light from Russian President Vladimir Putin to attack the airport.
“A few days ago Mr. Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Mr. Putin. Among other subjects, they discussed the continuation of Israeli actions in Syria. Apparently it seems to be ok, green light from Moscow,” he said, adding that Russia might have agreed to this in exchange for Israel’s neutrality in the Ukraine war.
“This year there were 32 alleged attacks against Iranian interests in Syria, out of these 32, two of them — one in June and one in September — were directed against the civilian international airport of Damascus. This (attack) is the third one in a short time,” the expert said, noting that Israel “has no choice but to strike” due to the arrival of “very sophisticated equipment for Hezbollah” and other pro-Iranian militias.
According to Jerusalmy, these strikes proved to be effective as Iran has decreased the rate at which they supply weapons to Hezbollah. He also expects Israel to acknowledge some of these strikes as part of its “psychological warfare.”
“I think that because prime minister Netanyahu has a stronger attitude towards the enemy, especially threatening even to attack Iran, there will be more and more times that the minister of defense will officially recognize that we hit this or that place in Syria,” he said.
On December 19, while Israeli forces were still under the leadership of Yair Lapid and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, an alleged Israeli attack killed two at a Hezbollah weapons depot. Israel has allegedly conducted hundreds of missions since the civil war in Syria began in 2011, although the Jewish state seldom comments on reported strikes north of its border. It has stated it will not tolerate Iranian-backed militants, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and various Iraqi Shia militant groups, operating in Syria.