Attack on Syrian regime’s Shayrat airbase, pictures reveal massive damage

The cratered runway will slow Iran’s ability to move weapons to Syria and Hezbollah.

Attack in Syria on August 25, 2019. (photo credit: ARAB MEDIA)
Attack in Syria on August 25, 2019.
(photo credit: ARAB MEDIA)
Satellite images revealed damage to a key Syrian regime airbase on April 8. The site was struck on March 31.
ImageSat International (ISI), which published the images, noted that it had revealed “evidence of a massive strike in Shayrat Airbase, located in Homs, Syria.” No country has claimed responsibility. Syria’s SANA state media blamed Israel and claimed that Syrian air defense downed numerous incoming missiles on the night of the attack.

ImageSat says that their report “shows 6-7 hits on the runway and access routes and [an] additional two on navigation systems.” The Syrians or their allies who may use the runaway are already repairing it. The images were produced on April 8 and published the next day.
The airstrikes was probably intended to lock out Shayran airbase operations, ISI notes. This would interdict weapons transfers from Iran to Syria. Tehran supplies the Syrian regime and allied forces in Syria, as well as Hezbollah.
In recent years, Israel has warned about Iranian entrenchment in Syria. There have been numerous incidents between Israel and Iran as well in Syria, such as an Iranian drone flown from Tiyas Airbase into Israeli airspace in February 2018. In addition, Hezbollah operatives tried to launch “killer drones” from Syria toward Israel in August 2019.
The Shayrat attack may contribute to stopping the use of this base for weapons transfers, the ISI report notes. The airport is laid out with two runways at angles shaped like a giant “V,” and both seem cratered.
Shayrat has suffered damage in the past. It is allegedly from where Syrian aircraft took off to carry out chemical weapons attacks in 2017. In response, the US bombed the airbase in April 2017. Some 59 cruise missiles slammed into reinforced aircraft bunkers around the airbase. Later a mysterious explosion rocked the base in August 2019, killing more personnel. Between the 2017 and 2019 attacks and explosions, more than 100 people were killed at the base, most of them Syrians.
SANA said the March 31 strike began after eight in the evening. Rumors that day indicated that at least one Iranian IRGC officer was killed in the airstrikes. Subsequent reports cast doubt on how senior this officer was or if he even existed.
Iran uses Syria to transfer precision guided munitions to Hezbollah. It also supports the Syrian regime in its battle against Turkish-backed Syrian rebels. The Shayrat airbase is important to the regime.
The base is located about 140 km. north of Damascus and about 150 km. south of the important Russian airbase at Khmeimim in Latakia. It is near the Lebanese border and the town of Qusayr, where Hezbollah helped the Syrian regime in 2012. It is less than 100 km. from another sensitive Syrian facility at Masyaf that was hit by airstrikes in 2017, allegedly an area of chemical weapons and other facilities. It is also south of a weapons facility being built near Baniyas. That puts Shayrat in a sensitive position between a whole series of important bases, facilities and sensitive areas.
The Syrian regime unsuccessfully defended its bases from airstrikes in March and in the past. Iran tried to move its 3rd Khordad air defense system to Syria in April 2018 to Tiyas base to help defend against attacks on its weapon transfers. The system was allegedly bombed before it could be unpacked. Russia supplied the regime with S-300s that September but it does not seem to have deployed the air defense. It has used S-200s, shooting them wildly in the past, downing a Russian plane and firing one toward Cyprus. 
The Shayrat base is a strategic location. For Iran’s weapons transfers, it is an easy way to bring weapons closer to the front lines in Idlib or to move them via Hezbollah posts in Qusayr down the Beka’a valley. Now the Syrian regime and its Iranian allies will have to repair the runways.