Syria says Israeli strike puts Aleppo airport out of service

  • Syrian government redirects aid flights after attack
  • Syrian foreign ministry condemns 'double crime' by Israel
  • Israeli military declines to comment
  • Israel has previously attacked Iran-linked targets in Syria

BEIRUT, March 7 (Reuters) - An Israeli air strike knocked Aleppo airport out of service on Tuesday and forced the Syrian authorities to reroute flights carrying aid for people affected by last month's earthquake, Syrian state media reported.

The Israeli military declined to comment.

Israel has for years been carrying out attacks against what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran's influence has grown since it began supporting President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war that began in 2011.

In the second attack on Aleppo airport in six months, Syrian air defences intercepted missiles launched from the Mediterranean, west of the coastal city of Latakia, at 2:07 a.m. (2307 GMT), state news agency SANA reported, citing a military source.

The attack caused "material damage" to the airport, SANA cited the source as saying, without mentioning any casualties.

In a statement reported by state media, the transport ministry said humanitarian aid flights would be rerouted to Damascus and Latakia after the "Israeli aggression".

Foreign donors including the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Algeria have flown aid into Aleppo airport since the Feb. 6 earthquake, Syrian state media has reported.

The Syrian foreign ministry, in a statement, condemned the attack as a "double crime", saying it had hit a civilian airport and "one of the primary channels for delivering humanitarian assistance" to people affected by the earthquake.

The earthquake killed 1,414 deaths in government-held parts of the country, the government has said.

More than 4,500 were reported killed by the earthquake in parts of Syria under rebel control in the northwest, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said.

Israel has previously said its air strikes in Syria have slowed down Iran's entrenchment in the country, where Tehran has supported pro-Assad groups including Lebanon's Hezbollah.

The attack overnight was Israel's third air strike in Syria this year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Last year, Israel carried out more than 30 air strikes in Syria, the Observatory said.

In January, the Syrian army said an Israeli missile attack briefly put Damascus airport out of service.

Damascus airport was also struck last year, making it impossible for the United Nations to fly in aid deliveries to needy Syrians for around two weeks, the U.N.'s commission of inquiry said at the time.

Sources told Reuters a rocket attack in Damascus in February, also blamed by Syria on Israel, hit an installation where Iranian officials were meeting to advance programmes to develop drone or missile capabilities of Tehran's allies in Syria.

Reporting by Enas Alashray and Yomna Ehab in Cairo, Maya Gebeily in Beirut; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Leslie Adler, Gerry Doyle and Shounak Dasgupta

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