Beirut (AP) —Israel has recorded a major escalation in a long-standing airstrike campaign in Syria. Last week, Israel launched an attack to close the country’s major private airport in Damascus as it stepped up its efforts to stop Iran’s arms shipment to Hezbollah.
Commercial flights were still suspended at Damascus International Airport five days after a pre-dawn Friday air strike crashed into the runway, leaving multiple craters and damaging control towers and other buildings.
The strike further heightened tensions in the conflict between Israel and Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah. Iran has accused Israel of assassinating high-ranking members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hezbollah threatened To attack Gasrig, Israel has set up in the Mediterranean region, which Lebanon claims to be its waters.
Escalation is taking place as Russia, the largest ally of Iran and Syria, is obsessed with the war in Ukraine. Russia has a naval and air base in Syria, where troops are deployed to support Damascus in a long civil war in Syria.
At the strike, Israel is sending a message that “Iran will not allow Syria to fill Russia’s void while busy in Ukraine,” said Ibrahim Hamidi, a Syrian journalist and senior diplomatic editor on Syria’s affairs. Said London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
Israel has been bombing Syria for years, saying it is determined to prevent the smuggling of trenches near the northern border of Iran and to Hezbollah, which is funded and armed by Tehran. increase. The strike struck the bases of the Iranian militias, including Hezbollah, and the convoys allegedly carrying weapons to Hezbollah.
Friday’s strike was the most widespread against civilian targets and had the greatest impact by closing the airport. As in the past, Israel did not claim responsibility for strikes.
Even during the worst days of the 11-year civil war in Syria, the airport remained operational. There are both civilian and military sections, and satellite images show the runway with at least three craters on each side.
In addition to the runway, the strike attacked or damaged the airport hall, radar tower and weapons transport on the civilian side of the airport, said Lami Abdullahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the United Kingdom. Syria. The position of the army south of Damascus was also hit.
Despite the escalation, both Syria and Hezbollah remained relatively modest about the attack. Syrian state media injured one on Israeli strike, Caused “serious” damage Connected to the infrastructure and disabled major civilian runways until further notice. The flight was rerouted to the airport in Aleppo while the repairs were taking place.
Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous visited the airport on Sunday to inspect repairs. A photo posted by SANA shows a bulldozer working on what looks like a runway, another bulldozer in an airport room where the glass is blown off, the chairs come off the spot, and the electrical cables hang from the ceiling. Showed damage to one of the.
Israeli media reported that the purpose of the latest attack was to prevent the equipment used in precision guided missiles from flowing into Hezbollah.
Military analyst Yossi Yehoshua wrote in Israel’s daily Yehoshua that Yehoshua first used cargo planes to hide weapons in the hangars of Damascus International Airport and to enhance aerial operations. rice field. He claimed that Iran and Hezbollah are now using civilian flights to Damascus and Beirut to smuggle advanced munitions into Hezbollah.
“The supplies are made up of relatively small parts that look harmless enough,” writes Yehoshua, who can easily hide them in checked baggage on a civil flight.
Amos Harel, Israel’s daily senior military correspondent in Haaretz, is looking for ways for Iran to avoid Israeli turmoil, and recently some of the best systems have been smuggled into carry-on baggage on commercial flights. I wrote that.
He added that this action suggests that while international attention is focused on Ukraine, Israel probably now feels that it can take widespread military action.
Past Israeli strikes have almost disappeared without retaliation from the Syrians. Israeli airstrikes in Syria are usually coordinated with Moscow through a “conflict resolution mechanism” to avoid direct conflict with Russian troops in Syria.
In rare public accusations, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused Friday’s airstrikes of being “provocative” and “violating the basic norms of international law.”
Lebanese journalist Sate Nureddin, who is in charge of the Arab-Israeli affairs, said the Israeli move to knock out the airport in Damascus “is planning to impose a complete aerial blockade on Iran while attacking Hezbollah, which is important with Hezbollah. I’m planning to steal an aerial link. ” The only military supply center. “
The strike could be the first step towards the possibility of a war between Israel and Hezbollah, Nureddin warned, and is the editor-in-chief of the Lebanese news site Al-Modon.
Hezbollah and Israel have experienced a series of conflicts, including a full-scale war in 2006. The tension between the two enemies is Maritime boundary conflict between Lebanon and IsraelHezbollah leader Hassan Nasrara threatened to attack Israeli gas rigs last week.
In February, Nasrara said the group manufactures military drones in Lebanon and has the technology to turn thousands of its missiles into precision-guided munitions.
Lebanese military analysts, who are closely tracking the situation in Syria and Lebanon, said Syrian officials have been unusually “tightened” given their importance since the strike.
“There is silence at all levels in Syria, and the true extent of the strike is unknown,” he said, asking him not to publish his name to discuss Syria’s reaction.
“The link between strike timing and regional development is puzzling,” he said.
Jerusalem’s Associated Press writer Joseph Federman contributed to the press.