Israel Threatens to Shut Down Syrian Airports

Israel threatens to paralyze Syrian airports (Archive)

Israel is working on plans to severely disrupt air traffic from Iran to Syria to stop weapons transfers. Iranian planes are bringing military gear into Syria at least three times a week, unnamed Israeli sources told Breaking Defense magazine.

Israel is closely monitoring the shipments and planning to take action, the report said. One option is to launch paralyzing airstrikes on Syrian airports to completely halt air traffic from Tehran.

The Alma research center recently published a detailed report on Iranian arms smuggling via civilian flights. Intelligence information shows that Iran is using a civilian airline operated by the armed forces, Mahan Air, to facilitate weapons shipments.  

Israel reportedly bombed the Damascus and Aleppo airports earlier this year. According to Israeli intelligence sources, Iran has been using air shipments to smuggle advanced missiles and other arms into Syria. Most of these weapons are destined for Hezbollah.

Airstrikes or cyber ops?

Israel could target Iranian aircraft but is also considering other options that are less extreme.

One source told Breaking Defense that future attacks on Damascus International Airport could be more devastating and destroy critical systems as well as runways. An ex-Air Force officer said that Israel could also launch cyber attacks that will shut down the airport.

The former officer said that Israel has all the needed cyber capabilities to paralyze the airport. However, Israeli military planners may decide to reserve such powerful tools for a full-scale war.  

Hitting Syrian air defenses

Israel may already be taking preliminary steps to prepare an assault on Iran-Syria air traffic. The IDF targeted arms depots and a new air defense battery protecting the Damascus Airport last night, Arab sources said. Last week, Israel reportedly destroyed a radar position in southern Syria.

Suppressing Syria’s dense array of air defenses could be the first step ahead of more extensive airstrikes. So far Israeli jets have been able to operate in Syrian airspace with relative ease by relying on superb technology and intelligence.

However, a broad air campaign to terminate arms shipments could trigger Iranian retaliation. With both Israel and Iran escalating their military action since November, Syria remains the most likely site for a major Israeli-Iranian clash in the next six months.