Israeli attack on Damascus airport kills 4 fighters: monitor

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    The Israeli army carried out a rocket attack on Damascus International Airport on Monday that killed four people, including two Syrian soldiers, according to a human rights monitor.

    This is the second time in less than seven months that Damascus airport, home to Iranian-backed armed groups and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, has been hit by Israel.

    The attack, which took place around 02:00 (23:00 GMT), left the country’s main airport out of order, Syria’s state news agency SANA said.

    Israel carried out the attack with “a barrage of rockets targeting Damascus International Airport and the surrounding area,” a military source told SANA, reporting that two Syrian soldiers were killed.

    But the UK-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 been killed 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 UKTN.

    The rockets also hit “positions for Hezbollah and pro-Iran groups within the airport and surrounding area, including an arms depot,” Abdul Rahman said.

    Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes on its neighbour, targeting both government forces and allied Iranian-backed forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah.

    While Israel rarely comment on specific reports of its attacks, it has repeatedly said it will not allow its nemesis 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 actions in Syria are an example of how continuous and sustained military action is shaping and influencing the entire region,” the IDF tweets following Basiuk’s presentation.

    “We do not accept Hezbollah 2.0 in Syria.”

    – More than a decade of war –

    The airport is located in a region south of Damascus where Iranian-backed groups, including Hezbollah, are regularly active.

    The last time the airport was out of service was in June 2022, also after an Israeli missile strike.

    The runway, control tower, three hangars, warehouses and reception areas were badly damaged in that attack, forcing the airport to close and flights to be suspended for about two weeks.

    As with Monday’s attack, the Observatory said at the time that the attacks targeted nearby warehouses used as weapons depots by Iran and Hezbollah.

    The conflict in Syria began with the ruthless suppression of peaceful protests and escalated to attract foreign powers and global jihadists.

    About half a million people have died and the conflict has driven about half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.

    Although hostilities have largely eased over the past three years, sporadic fighting breaks out and jihadist attacks continue at times, mainly in the east of the country.

    In 2022, Syria saw its lowest annual death toll since the conflict began more than a decade ago.

    According to figures from the Observatory, at least 3,825 people were killed in the war in Syria in 2022, compared to last year’s 3,882.

    The dead in 2022 included 1,627 civilians, including 321 children, the Observatory said.

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