Israeli army carries missile strike on Damascus International Airport; 4 killed, including 2 Syrian soldiers

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Beirut, Lebanon: The Israeli army carried out a missile strike on Damascus International Airport on Monday that killed four people, including two Syrian soldiers, according to a human rights monitor.

The attack, the second in seven months to put the Damascus International Airport out of service, caused material damage in a nearby area, the army said, without giving further details.

Israel has targeted airports and ports in government-held parts of Syria in an apparent attempt to prevent arms shipments from Iran to militant groups backed by Tehran, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The attack — which occurred around 2:00 am (2300 GMT) — put the airport out of service, according to Syria’s state news agency SANA.

Israel carried out the strike with “barrages of missiles, targeting Damascus International Airport and its surroundings”, a military source told SANA, which reported that two Syrian soldiers were killed.

But the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — which relies on a wide network of sources on the ground in Syria — said a total of four people had died in the early morning attack.

“Four fighters including two Syrian soldiers were killed” by the Israeli strike, Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Observatory, told AFP.

The missiles also hit “positions for Hezbollah and pro-Iranian groups inside the airport and its surroundings, including a weapons warehouse”, Abdul Rahman said.

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 Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

The last time the airport was out of service was in June — also after Israeli strikes.

While Israel rarely comments on specific reports of its attacks, it has repeatedly said it will not allow its archfoe Iran to gain a foothold in Syria.

Monday’s strike comes days after the head of the Israel Defense Forces, Major General Oded Basiuk, presented the army’s operational outlook for 2023.

“We see that our course of action in Syria is an example of how continuous and persistent military action leads to shaping and influencing the entire region,” according to tweets by the IDF on Basiuk’s presentation.

“We will not accept Hezbollah 2.0 in Syria.”

More than a decade of war

In 2022, Syria experienced its lowest yearly death toll since the conflict started over a decade ago.

At least 3,825 people died in Syria’s war in 2022, according figures compiled by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — down from the previous year’s 3,882.

Among those killed in 2022 were 1,627 civilians, including 321 children, according to the Observatory.

After years of deadly fighting and bombardments following the brutal suppression of 2011 anti-government protests, the conflict has largely abated in the last three years.

Sporadic fighting at times breaks out and jihadist attacks continue, mainly in the east of the country.

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Israeli army carries missile strike on Damascus International Airport; 4 killed, including 2 Syrian soldiers
Israeli army carries missile strike on Damascus International Airport; 4 killed, including 2 Syrian soldiers
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