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Israel missiles hit arms depot in Syria's Aleppo airport: monitor

Syria's Aleppo airport, which has been knocked out by an air strike blamed on Israel, has been a major conduit for relief supplies for victims of last month's earthquake
— Beirut (AFP)

An Israeli missile strike destroyed a suspected arms depot used by Iran-backed militias at Syria's Aleppo airport Wednesday, a war monitor said, with authorities saying the raid put the airport out of service.

It was the second such attack in a month on the airport in Syria's second city, which has been a major conduit for relief flights since a February 6 earthquake devastated swathes of northern Syria and neighbouring Turkey.

The pre-dawn strike targeting a compound and weapons depot at the airport "completely destroyed" the storage facility, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that relies on a network of sources on the ground in the war-torn country.

Since civil war erupted in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against its neighbour, primarily targeting positions of the Syrian army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

Iran-backed militias have a heavy presence in the Aleppo region after providing key ground support to the army in its recapture of rebel-held districts of the city in 2016.

Following Wednesday's strike, the Syrian defence ministry reported "damage" at Aleppo airport, without mentioning any casualties.

"Around 3:55 am (0055 GMT), the Israeli enemy carried out an air attack... targeting Aleppo international airport, leading to some material damage," a ministry statement said.

"A number of missiles" were fired from the Mediterranean west of the coastal city of Latakia, it added.

The transport ministry said the strikes caused damage to the runway and to airport equipment, forcing all flights to be redirected to Damascus or to Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.

- Quake relief hub -

The Israeli army rarely comments on individual strikes against Syria, but has vowed repeatedly to keep up its air campaign to stop arch foe Iran consolidating its presence.

On Wednesday it said "we do not comment on reports in the foreign media", the Israeli military's standard response when questioned about such strikes.

However, in a separate statement Wednesday evening, it said on Twitter that one of its drones went down in Syria during a routine operation. The army added there was no risk of information leaking because of the incident.

Previous strikes blamed on Israel have also stopped flights using the airport following damage to the runway.

Syria's Aleppo airport has been a key conduit for aid flights, like this one from Iran, since a February 6 earthquake devastated swathes of northern Syria and neighbouring Turkey

On March 7, three people were killed in an Israeli strike on the airport that brought to a halt air traffic, including relief flights. The airport reopened three days later.

By that time more than 80 aid flights had landed in Aleppo with relief supplies following the earthquake, according to the transport ministry.

Israel has attacked Aleppo and Damascus airports several times in recent years.

A strike on Aleppo airport in September put it out of service for several days. That attack targeted a warehouse used by Iran-backed militias, the Observatory said at the time.

Earlier this month, Israeli air strikes targeting a weapons depot in Syria killed an army officer and two pro-Iran fighters, the Observatory said.

Last month, an Israeli air strike killed 15 people in a Damascus district housing state security agencies.

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