Syria says runways unusable after Israel hits airport

Syria says runways unusable after Israel hits airport.

DAMASCUS: Syria has confirmed major damage including to runways at Damascus International Airport, which was closed for a second day on Saturday for repairs after Israeli air strikes.

The transport ministry said in a statement that runways were out of service.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 group.

But rarely have such attacks caused major flight disruptions. The ministry said air traffic would remain suspended until repair work is finished and airport security can be assured.

“Civil aviation and national companies are working… to repair the sizeable damage at the airport,” the ministry said, adding a terminal building was also hit. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the missile strike before dawn on Friday hit the only runway still in service at the airport, as well as several adjacent buildings. Israeli bombing last year had disabled another runway, it said.

“The runway, the control tower, three hangars, warehouses as well as reception rooms were badly damaged by the Israeli strikes,” the Observatory said.

Some of the reception rooms were used to receive Iranian officials and Hezbollah members while the warehouses stored weapons from Iran, it said.

The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources within Syria, said the strikes wounded an undetermined number of people.

Satellite images posted on Twitter by the Israeli firm ISI showed three separate areas of what it said was “extensive damage to both military and civilian runways” caused by the strikes.

The airport is in a region south of Damascus where Iran-backed groups, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, regularly operate.

The area has been repeatedly targeted by Israel, which has launched 15 aerial attacks on Syria this year alone and regularly accuses Iran of using the airport to send weapons shipments to its allies.Syrian state media had reported that a volley of missiles was fired from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at 4.20am (0120 GMT) on Friday.

Syria’s ally Russia strongly condemned “the provocative Israeli attack against essential civilian infrastructure”.

A spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry called such attacks “an absolutely unacceptable violation of international norms”.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian spoke by phone and also condemned the attack, SANA reported.

Syria “will defend itself by all legitimate means” against Israeli attacks, Mekdad said.

On May 20, Israeli surface-to-surface missiles from the Golan Heights killed three people near Damascus, state media said at the time, quoting a military source. Those strikes targeted Iranian positions and weapon depots near Damascus, starting a fire near one of the positions close to the airport, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

While Israel rarely comments on individual strikes, it has acknowledged carrying out hundreds in Syria, which the Jewish state’s military says is necessary to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep.