On Thursday the 27th of April, five strikes allegedly occurred near the Damascus Airport road in the early hours of the morning. Damascus Airport is about 25 kilometers south-east from the capital. The airstrikes hit an ammunition depot operated by the Lebanese Hezbollah, a regional intelligence group reported. The airstrikes have caused a massive fire near the airport according to opposition activists, pro-Government sources and a group monitoring Syria.
The explosion was heard across the capital, jolting residents awake, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdulrahman said. The Syrian Observatory currently represents the most reliable source on the attack. It is a small organization, without any political connections based in London that is attempting to report on the state of Human Rights in Syria. Activist-operated Diary of a Mortar, which reports from Damascus also reported on the attack; as did a pro-government website called Damascus Now. There is still no official comment from the Syrian government.
Reuters reported that Israel was responsible for the airstrikes. Israel has carried out airstrikes in Syria in the past with the last one occurring in January and targeting the Mezze military base. In 2015 they were responsible for launching attacks near Damascus that killed two prominent Hezbollah commanders.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, speaking from the United States where he has been meeting US officials, told Israeli Army Radio “I can confirm that the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in Iran. Naturally, I don’t want to elaborate on this. The prime minister has said that whenever we receive intelligence that indicated an intention to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah, we will act,” Katz added.
Commercial and military cargo planes from Tehran, Iran’s capital, regularly supplied weapons to Hezbollah that were then stored at this military depot. Tehran which continues to be a major ally of the Assad government regularly sends weapons to Syria according a source who did not wished to be named. The arms are then used by an array of Iranian backed militias led by Hezbollah who have thousands of fighters engaging in some of the toughest fronts in Syria.
The explosion came a day after it was reported by France that the chemical analysis of samples taken from the deadly sarin gas attack in Syria bore the signature of the Assad regime and that the Government was likely responsible. It was this attack that lead to Donald Trump and the USA striking the country for the first time since the conflict began 6 years ago. After this attack the United States also issued sanctions on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency supposedly responsible for creating the non-conventional weapons. Syria and the Assad regime continue to deny claims that they used chemical weapons on their citizens despite contrary evidence and a vast amount of international pressure.
There is still uncertainty around how the attacks will impact war torn Syria. Whether they mark an increase of Israeli presence in the region is yet to be known.