Syria rushes to restore Damascus airport as flights remain diverted to Aleppo

Prime Minister Hussein Arnous visited the airport on Sunday

Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous, centre, visiting Damascus International Airport after airstrikes damaged its two runways. AFP
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Syrian authorities are hastening to restore services at Damascus International Airport following airstrikes that extensively damaged its two runways.

All flights to and from the airport remain halted, the Syrian transportation ministry said. Some flights are still being diverted to the city of Aleppo.

Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous visited the airport on Sunday, state-run news agency Sana reported.

Repair works are expected to take about two weeks, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said, citing airport sources.

Syria's government has blamed Israel for Friday's attack. Israel has yet to respond.

The observatory also claimed Israel was behind the attacks.

The UK-based observatory has been monitoring for more than 11 years the key developments and human rights violations in Syria.

Repair works are taking place on the northern runway, along with the navigation lights, the communications tower, the old halls, three hangars and warehouses, the observatory said.

On Friday, the Israel-based Image Sat International published satellite images of what it said was extensive damage to both military and civilian runways from the June 10 strikes.

According to the observatory, the southern runway was already out of service before the latest attacks due to “Israeli airstrikes” that targeted the airport last year.

While not confirming outright its involvement in the air strikes in Syria, Israelis officials have accused Iran in recent months and years of using Damascus airport to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon using cargo airlines via Syria.

Israel has also said it will not allow Iran to entrench its militias near Israeli borders.

Syria has accused Israel for years of sharply increasing airstrikes against its territories. The airstrikes have targeted several parts across the country including the capital Damascus.

According to the observatory, the strikes targeted Iranian assets and weapons depots belonging to militias loyal to Tehran. It put at 15 the number of such strikes since the beginning of this year.

Iran has been the chief backer of the regime of President Bashar Al Assad since the start of the protests against his rule in 2011, which morphed into a bloody civil conflict.

The conflict has been continuing for more than 11 years. It has claimed the lives of more than 350,000 people, according to the United Nations. The observatory's estimate is nearly 500,000 people.

Supported by Iran and Russia, the Assad regime has turned the tide against his opposition factions and recaptured most of the Syrian territories except for parts in the north including the north-western province of Idlib.

Last month, the Israel military's Arabic-language spokesman, Lt Col Avichay Adraee, accused Iran on his official Twitter account of transferring weapons on civilian flights to Damascus airport.

He claimed that Iran-backed Hezbollah was “exploiting Lebanon and its citizens” to achieve its goals.

On Friday, Russia, which controls Syrian airspace in co-ordination with the Syrian government, condemned Israel for “attacking Syrian civilian infrastructure”, according to Russian media.

Russia said that the airport suffered “serious damage,” and that Syrian officials told Moscow repairing the damaged runways may take “significant time.”

Updated: June 13, 2022, 1:54 PM
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