Syrian Airport Bombed: Israel Sends a Message

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Jess Diez
Managing Editor & Research Associate, Middle East Policy Council

September 13, 2022

On Tuesday, September 6, Israel conducted air raids on the Aleppo International Airport in northern Syria, damaging the runway and marking the second air strike to the airport in less than a week. The following day, on September 7, Syria’s foreign ministry identified the attacks as a war crime.” Many analysts believe this attack may be a warning sign from Israel to the Syrian regime, showcasing how infrastructure and more will be targeted if Syria involves itself in the Iran nuclear deal. 

Tuesday’s air strike on the Aleppo airport, harming the three runway spots and the radio navigation system, forced all flights to redirect to the Damascus airport. These strikes, putting the airport out of commission, were not the first of its kind. According to the Times of Israel, although Israel’s military does not generally comment publicly on Syrian strikes, they have “admitted to conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country. It says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanese Hezbollah. Earlier this year, airstrikes attributed to Israel caused major damage to the Damascus International Airport, halting all air traffic for two weeks. Generally, relatively large weapons are thought to be smuggled via Syria on Iranian cargo airlines, which frequently land at Damascus International and the Tiyas, or T-4, airbase, outside of the central Syrian city of Palmyra.”

This recent Israeli strike on the Aleppo airport resulted in more than just infrastructural damages; multiple casualties were reported. According to Al-Arabiya, the air raidskilled at least three people, a war monitor said Wednesday. The identities and nationalities of those killed could not be immediately confirmed.”

Noting the frequency of these strikes, Syria’s Foreign Ministry spoke out in regards to the danger of these attacks. Written in Ahram, “Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the attack caused serious ‘material damage to the airport runway and put it out of service. Israel, with this dangerous escalation, are once again threatening peace and security in the region, endangering and terrifying the lives of civilians, and threatening the safety of civil aviation in Syria and the region,’ the ministry said.”

Inversely, the chairman of Israel’s parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee Ram Ben-Barak, stated the validity of such a strike, as well as the need to send a message to the Syrian regime. According to Aawsat, Ben-Barak did not state whether Israel carried out the strike but did announce that “the attack meant that certain planes would not be able to land, and that a message was relayed to Assad: If planes whose purpose is to encourage terrorism land, Syria’s transport capacity will be harmed…The strategy of the State of Israel is to thwart the Iranian attempt to build around us armed militias well-equipped with precision weapons in order to deter us from acting against Iran or acting against such and such terrorist elements in the region.”

Israel’s credence that Aleppo’s airport is hosting Iran is explained in the Jerusalem Post. The Managing Director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Tamir Hayman expressed his opinion on the reasoning behind the supposedly Israeli attacks: “On the strategic level, the operational pressure in Syria is intended to halt Iran’s consolidation in Syria and demonstrate to the Syrian regime the cost of hosting the Iranians…. On the operational level – three objectives: Work against strategic arms shipments (missiles and UAVs); prevent the transfer of weapons, money and precision technology to Hezbollah; work against the infrastructure of Shi’ite militias, whose purpose is to attack Israel.”

Continuing Israel’s sentiments regarding Iran’s growing involvement in Syria as well as neighboring countries, Haaretz highlights concerns from Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Gantz stated that “‘Iran is building terror industries in Syria for their own needs, and recently they have begun to build similar industries in Yemen and Lebanon. The world must stop this Iranian aggression and create a reliable and concrete military option’…[He claims] that the Iranians are spending on this project more than a billion dollars each year. According to Gantz, Iran converted some of the factories of the Syrian military–industrial complex into weapons factories specifically building rockets and advanced weapons for Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militant groups. Gantz pointed to the ten weapons facilities as said they are a ‘potentially substantial threat to Israel and the region, especially the underground factory in Masyaf where precise missiles are being built.’”

The Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry expressed their own right to respond to these attacks on Syria that are seen as unfair. According to Al Mayadeen, the Ministry stated that Syria will exercise its legitimate right to defend its land and people by all means and to ensure the Israeli occupation authorities’ accountability for their crimes.”

As Syrian-Israeli relations decline further, various political analysts struggle to find a solution to ending air strikes while taking current talks into account. According to Al Jazeera, “Sami Hamdi, a political analyst, said the raids must be put within the context of the United States’ allies fearing Iran’s influence as President Joe Biden ‘steamrolls’ them into pursuing a nuclear deal with Tehran.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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