Iranian airlines halt flights to Syria after Israeli strikes

A report in Iran International says only IRGC-owned and US-sanctioned Mahan Air continues to fly to Syria.

 A plane carrying Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian lands in Damascus International Airport, in Damascus, Syria March 23, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/FIRAS MAKDESI)
A plane carrying Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian lands in Damascus International Airport, in Damascus, Syria March 23, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/FIRAS MAKDESI)

Two Iranian airlines have stopped flying to Syria over continued airstrikes blamed on Israel

According to Iran International, Caspian Air and Qeshm Fars Air have stopped flying to Syria after alleged Israeli strikes in June destroyed the runways and temporarily shut down Damascus Airport for weeks.

Satellite images taken by ImageSat International and Maxar Technologies showed three impact craters on both the military and civilian runways, rendering them inoperable, and “disabled the entire airport until repair,” ISI said.

Following the strikes, Syria’s Transportation Ministry announced that the airport was suspending flights due to technical disruptions.

 A view shows damage at Damascus International Airport, Syria, in this handout released by SANA on June 12, 2022.  (credit: SANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) A view shows damage at Damascus International Airport, Syria, in this handout released by SANA on June 12, 2022. (credit: SANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Quoting Western intelligence sources, Iran International said that the only Iranian airline flying to Syria is Mahan Air, which has been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department since 2011 for transporting weapons to Iranian proxies in the war-torn country, and “providing financial, material and technological support to the IRGC’s Quds Force.”

The airline is owned by the Mola al-Movahedin Charity, which is the central part of the Quds Force’s economic activities in Iran.

Following the cancellation of flights by the two companies, Mahan Air increased its flights by 30% with the majority heading to Aleppo, according to the report.

Iran's nuclear ambitions

Israel has warned repeatedly about Iran’s nuclear ambitions as well as its aspirations to regional hegemony, and has admitted to hundreds of airstrikes as part of its “war-between-wars” (known as MABAM in Hebrew) campaign to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of its forces in Syria where they could easily act against Israel.

According to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, Israel has ramped up its campaign and has carried out a double-digit amount of strikes throughout the Middle East in the past two months alone, as part of the MABAM.

Not only have the strikes in Syria destroyed an immeasurable amount of advanced and strategic weaponry, but Iran’s air, land and sea corridors did not function for 70% of 2021 due to operations carried out as part of the campaign.

Israeli strikes in Syria

Israel was blamed for targeting sites near Damascus last week, killing several Syrian soldiers and Iranian militia members.

The targets of the attack were military sites including the Syrian air force intelligence offices, the office of a senior officer, as well as the nearby al-Mezzah airbase and warehouse containing Iranian weaponry in the southern suburb of Sayyidah Zaynab.

Two weeks earlier, a Syrian militant working with the Syrian Army was killed by an alleged drone strike in Quneitra in southwestern Syria.

Less than a week before that strike, two Syrian civilians were wounded in an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting sites near the coastal city of Tartus, the Syrian military said. Reports by opposition-affiliated media claimed that air-defense batteries from Iran were targeted in the strike.