The Syrian rump government’s official news agency has accused Israel of dropping bombs on Damascus airport, among speculation that the attack may have been a pre-emptive strike to take out newly arrived Russian air-defence systems before they are fully operational.
Speaking of the purported “aggression” towards them, the report on Syrian television said: “The Israeli enemy attacked Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the area of Damascus international airport”.
The Guardian newspaper reports the remarks of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British group monitoring the conflict who said the strike hit a warehouse in the “military part” of Damascus airport. The precision of the his suggests Israeli forces may have conducted an intelligence-led surgical strike against specific equipment.
A further ten explosions were heard in a “military area” at al-Dimas. The Human Rights Observatory added: “It is unknown whether these weapons belong to Hezbollah or to the regular army.”
It has been reported the object of the strike may have been recently delivered military equipment flown in from the Russian Federation in support of the Assad regime, possibly including 20th-century vintage S-300 air defence missiles. When speaking of their decision to supply the air defence systems, the Russian foreign ministry said: “We consider this delivery a factor of stabilization. We believe that moves like this one to a great degree restrain some hotheads from escalating the conflict to the international scale, from involving external forces”.
This would not be the first time Israel had attacked Syria since the part-collapse of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, as Israeli forces work to prevent weapons and equipment being transferred to Lebanese Islamists Hezbollah. Speaking on radio, Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said: “We have a firm policy of preventing all possible transfers of sophisticated weapons to terrorist organisations”.