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Israeli Missile Strikes Briefly Shut Damascus Airport, Syria Says

Syria said Monday that Israel launched missile strikes on Damascus’s international airport, killing two military personnel and briefly shutting down the facility, the latest attack targeting a key Iran ally in the region. 

The strikes took place at 2 a.m. local time and caused material damage to the airport in the country’s capital, according to Syria’s state-run news agency SANA. The airport reopened at 9 a.m. after a series of missiles hit the facility overnight, Syria’s Transportation Ministry said. Two soldiers were also wounded in the attack, the ministry said.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the attack. Israeli officials generally don’t comment on individual airstrikes in Syria.

The attack is the latest in a long-running shadow war between Israel and Iran playing out in Syria and throughout the Middle East. Since 2017, Israel has carried out more than 400 airstrikes in Syria targeting what it says are Iran’s military assets and its network of allied militias in the region.

Israeli officials say the airstrikes are intended to weaken Iran’s ability to strike Israel in the event that the hostilities between the two countries spill into open war. Israeli officials also say that the strikes have succeeded in pushing Iranian military networks farther from Israel’s borders.

Israel has repeatedly targeted airports in Syria over the past year, accusing Iran of using the facilities to transport weapons into the country as a part of its clandestine military network in the region. An airstrike on Damascus airport in June damaged its runways and shut down the airport for nearly two weeks.

A separate Israeli airstrike in November on a convoy of vehicles suspected of smuggling Iranian weapons in eastern Syria killed at least 10 people, people familiar with the attack said.

Iran is a main military supporter of the Syrian regime of President

Bashar al-Assad,

who has survived an armed rebellion against him that began during the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. During more than a decade of war, the Assad regime’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, indiscriminately bombed rebel-held cities and towns in a conflict that left hundreds of thousands dead and forced more than 13 million people to flee their homes. During the campaign against the rebels, the regime also used chemical weapons and carried out systematic torture and enforced disappearances of Syrians, among other abuses that have been documented by human-rights groups, the United Nations and Western prosecutors.

Iran has sent thousands of fighters along with military hardware, intelligence and logistical support that helped Mr. Assad push back the rebels. Mr. Assad’s government now controls Syria’s main population centers in central and western Syria, but large parts of the country remain outside of his control.

Iran’s support for the Assad regime is one part of its broader network of military and security partnerships in the region, which also include support for Lebanon’s armed Hezbollah movement, Shiite-led Iranian militias and Houthi rebels in Yemen. Tehran has expanded its support for those groups in recent years, giving them an ability to harass and attack Iran’s opponents, including the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

Write to Jared Malsin at jared.malsin@wsj.com

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