Damascus airport to reopen two weeks after Israeli air strikes damaged runways

Attack earlier this month was one of the largest to hit the airport since Israel began its air campaign in Syria in 2013

The attack on Damascus International Airport left several craters on its main runways. AFP
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Damascus International Airport will be operational again today after Israeli air strikes on June 10 damaged both the main runways and stopped flights.

All companies “should schedule their arriving and departing flights as of this date”, Syria’s Ministry of Transport said, according to a report by state news agency Sana.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria since 2013. Its main focus being storage silos and transit systems for missiles and rockets — moved into Syria by Iran-backed militias such as Hezbollah and a number of Iraqi groups — that could be used to strike Israeli territory.

Syrian military sites have also been struck on a number of occasions, particularly during attempts to shoot down Israeli aircraft.

Damascus International Airport has been bombed by Israel before. Syria claimed Israeli jets pounded the airport in December.

In 2019, a wave of Israeli air strikes destroyed what Tel Aviv said were Iranian arms depots and buildings used by Iranian personnel at the airport.

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time that the strikes had “dealt a severe blow to the Iranian weapons depot at Damascus International Airport, which reflects our determination to prevent Iran’s military consolidation in Syria”.

However, the June 10 attack was unprecedented in scale, with satellite images released by ImageSat, an Israeli spatial imagery company, showing at least eight craters on the main runways, rendering them inoperable.

It was one of the largest Israeli attacks on high-profile Syrian infrastructure since airstrikes hit Latakia port last year. The airport has long been suspected of having a dual role — civilian and military.

Work has been under way since then to repair the damage and flights have been mostly diverted to the international airport in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

Israel’s military has declined to comment on the Damascus airport strike. The airport is located south of the capital, where Syrian opposition activists say Iran-backed militiamen are active and have arms depots.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.

The airport strike marked a major escalation in Israel's campaign, further ratcheting up tension between Israel on one side and Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah on the other.

Israel says it focuses its attacks on bases of Iran-allied militias such as Hezbollah, which has fighters stationed in Syria fighting on the side of President Bashar Al Assad’s government forces and ships arms believed to be destined for the militias.

A number of Iraqi militia groups, also backed by Iran and linked to Mr Al Assad, are also active in Syria.

On Tuesday, a flight by private Syrian airline Cham Wings landed at an airport used by Russia's military in the coastal province of Latakia in western Syria.

The flight was the first to land at the airbase since the strike at Damascus airport.

It was also the first Syrian international flight to land at the base since Russia took it over after joining the war in Syria in September 2015, helping to tip the balance of power in favour of Mr Al Assad’s forces.

Updated: June 23, 2022, 9:15 AM