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International

Damascus explosion: large blast, fire at airport

11:00, Thursday, 27 April, 2017
Damascus explosion: large blast, fire at airport

Amman: A massive blast near Damascus International Airport early on Thursday was reportedly caused by an Israeli air strike, said Lebanon's al-Manar, a television channel affiliated with the Syrian government ally Hezbollah.

Two senior rebel sources operating in the Damascus area cited their monitors in the eastern outskirts of the capital where the airport is located as saying that five strikes had hit an ammunition depot used by Iran-backed militias.

The strikes hit an arms supply hub operated by the Lebanese Hezbollah group near where regular supplies of weapons from Tehran are sent by commercial and military cargo planes, a regional intelligence source says.

The depot handles a significant amount of weapons that Tehran, a major regional ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, sends regularly by air, the source who requested anonymity said, without giving further details.

The source said the arms depot gets a major part of the weapons supplied to an array of Iranian backed militias, led by Hezbollah, which have thousands of fighters engaged in some of the toughest fronts against Syrian rebels.

Al-Manar said initial indications were that the blast had caused only material damage and no human casualties.A spokeswoman for the Israeli military, asked if Israel had been involved in carrying out air strikes targeting Damascus airport, said: "We can't comment on such reports."

Dr Assad is backed in the Syrian civil war by Russia, Iran and regional Shiite militias including Hezbollah, which is a close ally of Tehran and a sworn enemy of Israel.

Israeli officials have cited any movement of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah units in Syria as a "red line" that has prompted it to carry out air strikes or artillery fire in the past.

Pro-Syrian government media and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights early on Thursday reported a large blast near the airport and a resident of central Damascus, several kilometres away said it woke her from sleep.

The large explosion was followed by a fire in the same place, the Syrian Observatory said.

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