DAMASCUS: All flights to and from Syria’s capital were halted on Friday, the government said, after Israeli air strikes wounded one civilian and damaged an airport runway.
Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against its neighbour, targeting government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, but rarely have such attacks caused major flight disruptions.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the latest strike carried out before dawn on Friday hit three arms depots near Damascus airport belonging to Hezbollah, as well as other Iran-backed groups.
Syria’s transport ministry later announced the “suspension of incoming and outgoing flights through Damascus airport” as a result of technical disruptions.
“The resumption of flights shall be declared once the installations and equipment are fixed to ensure the safety and security of the operational traffic,” it said.
An airport employee said the Israeli strikes had “affected” the facility.
“We had to postpone all flights for 48 hours and some flights have been rerouted through Aleppo airport,” the employee said.
An official at an Arab airline said an airport landing strip had been hit during the Israeli assault — a development the pro-government newspaper Al Watan also reported.
The official said there had been no departures or arrivals from the airport since the strikes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the damaged runway was the only one still operational after an Israeli strike last year put another one out of service.
Last year’s strikes had targeted weapon shipments and arms depots operated by Iran-backed groups, said the Observatory, a Britain-based monitor that relies on a wide network of sources inside Syria.
The airport is located in a region south of Damascus where Iran-backed groups, including Hezbollah, regularly operate.
The vicinity of the facility is a favourite target for Israel, which has launched 15 aerial attacks on Syria this year alone and regularly accuses Iran of using Damascus airport to send weapons shipments to its allies.
The Observatory said the runway hit in the attack had already been in poor condition before the raids.
Syrian state media had reported the Israeli strikes on southern Damascus, saying a volley of missiles were fired from the occupied Golan Heights before daybreak.
Syrian air defences intercepted most of the missiles, but those that reached their target left one civilian wounded and caused material damage.
While Israel rarely comments on individual strikes, it has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of them.