'Israeli Strike' On Military Site Near Damascus Airport

Syria accused Israel of air strikes on a Hezbollah-operated arms depot near the airport in Damascus.

A military site southwest of Damascus International Airport was bombed by Israeli warplanes on Thursday, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said a massive explosion near Damascus International Airport on Thursday was consistent with Israel's policy, but stopped short of confirming his country was behind it.

'Naturally, I don't want to elaborate on this'.

Hours later, Katz told Israel Radio: "We are acting to prevent the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Iran".

Most Israeli air strikes in Syrian territory in the last few years have aimed to prevent weapons smuggling to Iranian-allied Hezbollah, which fights alongside Bashar al-Assad's government against Syria's rebels, although the Israel Defence Force (IDF) does not comment on the nature of the missions. Damascus airport was also hit by Israel in May 2013.

The source said numerous arms are destined for an array of Iran-backed militias, led by Hezbollah, which have thousands of fighters engaged in some of the toughest fronts against Syrian rebels. Mezze airbase is just a few kilometers from the presidential palace.

Israeli officials have previously said they view any movement of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah units in Syria as a "red line" that would prompt it to carry out air strikes or artillery fire in the past.

The Syrian government has warned in January that it would retaliate any attack in Syria targeting its own areas.

Hezbollah's al-Manar media station reported a blast at the fuel tanks and a warehouse next to the airport, which is 25 kilometers (16 miles) east of the city's center.

Initial reports suggested the aircraft was a Syrian drone, but the army said it could not immediately confirm the details.

Hezbollah, considered by Israel a terrorist organization, was established in the 1980s in Lebanon.

Israel has annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 following the 1967 Six-Day War with Syria.

Leaving earlier that month for talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Netanyahu said: "Iran is trying to establish itself permanently in Syria, with a military presence on the ground and at sea, and also a gradual attempt to open a front against us on the Golan Heights".

There were several strikes near the same base previous year.

  • Joey Payne