Israel’s bombing of Aleppo International Airport in Syria on Tuesday was the second time it had come under attack in less than a week.
The latest air attack – described by the Syrian Foreign Ministry as a “war crime” – destroyed the runway and rendered it decommissioned.
The Aleppo attacks are not the first time that Israel has targeted Syrian airports. Last June, Israeli airstrikes temporarily shut down Damascus International Airport.
Israel has also carried out numerous attacks on targets in Syria over the past few years, although few are officially recognized.
Let’s take a closer look:
Warning to Iran
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Israel bombed a warehouse in the airport complex belonging to Iran-backed fighters, allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The observatory added that three people were killed in the targeting of the airport on Tuesday.
Sami Hamdi, a political analyst, said the raids should be placed in the context of US allies who fear Iran’s influence at a time when President Joe Biden is “pushing” them to seek a nuclear deal with Tehran.
“The attack is a warning to Iran in that it seeks to prove that Tel Aviv will continue to resist imposing the new political dynamics of the nuclear deal despite Washington,” Hamdi told Al Jazeera.
“It is a warning to Assad that there will be consequences for Syria’s infrastructure if it is used to facilitate the expected consolidation of Iran’s influence expected to be achieved by the nuclear deal,” he added.
The Syrian government is unable to respond
Syrian state media said that the Israeli attacks on Aleppo airport caused material damage, but did not mention any injuries. It also said that Syrian air defenses had intercepted and shot down some of Israel’s missiles.
While the Syrian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday condemned the raids as a “war crime” and called for Israel to be held accountable, Hamdi said the government lacked any real agency to respond unilaterally due to the government’s heavy military dependence on Russia and Iran.
“Russia has no interest in any confrontation with Israel, while Iran is keen to avoid provoking an open conflict that could jeopardize Biden’s position on the nuclear deal, which Tehran considers particularly favorable,” he said.
Instead, the Syrian government has contented itself with a statement of condemnation and a “public relations campaign insisting that the strikes are ‘proof’ that Assad belongs to the ‘resistance camps’ against the occupation of Palestine,” Hamdi said.
Israel sends a message to Assad
Since 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks on targets within government-controlled areas of Syria in recent years, but it rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
However, it has previously admitted targeting the bases of armed groups allied with Iran, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The head of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Ram Ben Barak, told Ynet radio on Wednesday that the strikes were a signal to Assad.
He added that “the attack means that certain planes will not be able to land, and that a message has been conveyed to Assad: If the planes are intended to encourage terrorism on the ground, the Syrian transport capacity will be damaged,” but he declined to say whether Israel carried out the raid.
Iran’s role in Syria
Iran is a close ally of the Assad regime, and it has been embroiled in the conflict from the start. Iran-allied militias, most notably the Lebanese Hezbollah, fought with the Syrian army against armed opposition groups.
Vladimir Sotnikov, a Russian analyst in international affairs, said that Iran’s position in the Syrian conflict is mainly related to confronting its archenemy Israel and its ally the United States, as they are major players in the region.
“Geopolitically speaking, I think that Iran’s involvement is generally explained by its intention to maintain and strengthen its role as a leading power in the region, in fierce competition with the United States’ ally and supporter of the Syrian opposition, Saudi Arabia,” he told Al Jazeera.
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