By Erin Viner
Unidentified aircraft launched a salvo of missiles from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea early yesterday. The Syrian Defense Ministry immediately accused Israel of committing the attack.
Aerial defense systems were deployed in attempts to intercept the incoming projectiles, although a Syrian military source cited by the regime-run SANA news agency acknowledged that the airport sustained “some material damage.”
Repair work on the damaged runways and other infrastructure at the airport is underway, announced Syria’s Civil Aviation Service.
The incident marks the second such bombardment on the Aleppo airport this month, and the third attack in six months.
Israel has for years been carrying out attacks against what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where the Ayatollah regime’s influence has grown since it began supporting President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war that began in 2011.
Western intelligence officials say the Islamic Republic has stepped up aerial weapons shipments to its terrorist proxies, including the Hezbollah terror organization, in attempts to evade IDF strikes on overland ground convoys. Strikes on Syrian airports and air bases have intensified in recent months. Iranian proxies, led by Hezbollah, now control large areas of eastern, southern and northern Syria and in several suburbs around the capital.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit neither confirmed nor denied Israeli involvement in the strikes in response to TV7’s request for comment.
Although officials rarely acknowledge responsibility for specific operations, Israel has acknowledged mounting hundreds of attacks on Iranian-linked targets in Syria – where the Islamic Republic’s forces and proxy have become entrenched in deployments aimed at attacking the Jewish State for almost a decade. Research centers for weapons development and munitions depots operated by IRGC have particularly been in the IDF’s crosshairs.
The United States and Israel have been increasingly concerned about Iran’s manufacturing of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, drones), and the possibility it would pass on those capabilities to regional proxies such as the heavily armed Hezbollah.
Three Western intelligence sources speaking with Reuters noted increased us by Iran of the Aleppo airport to deliver more arms during the past month, taking advantage of heavy air traffic as cargo planes offload relief aid following February’s deadly earthquake. An alleged Israeli strike on 7 March also put the Aleppo airport out of service after blowing up an Iranian arms cargo shipment just hours after it was delivered by a plane, said the sources.
Syria claimed the attacks – which have been condemned by its biggest backer Russia, as well as Iran – were disrupting much-needed aid for victims of deadly February earthquakes.
Israeli intelligence figures have signaled to Iran in recent weeks that it must halt arms transfers to its terrorist proxies under the guise of humanitarian aid to the quake-stricken regions in the Arab Republic, or face retaliation from Israel. Despite those warnings, an intelligence source speaking to TV7 on condition of anonymity, said that “the Islamic Republic continued to use its civilian aircraft to smuggle weaponry into Syria.”
Noting that Iranian proxy militias are expanding their influence in Syria’s northern Aleppo Province, two regional intelligence sources said nearby Nairab Military Airport is now being used regularly for Iranian arms deliveries and the movement of troops. Speaking on condition of anonymity due to sensitivities on the matter, the sources said that yesterday’s strike hit an underground munitions depot where missile systems transported by several Iranian military planes had been warehoused.
Syrian President Assad has never publicly acknowledged that Iranian forces have operated on his behalf in the war, claiming Tehran has only military advisers on the ground – despite frequent visits by top Iranian military officials and numerous deals to supply advanced weapons.