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Explosions Rock Damascus Airport; Syria Blames Israel

Yoav Galant, the Israeli construction minister, also declined to confirm the strikes but told Channel 10, “Our enemies must know: We will know to use our power to protect our interests by ourselves.”

Large explosions were heard miles from the airport that serves Damascus, the Syrian capital, and the glow of flames could be seen in the distance, according to residents in the area.

Sana, the state-run Syrian news agency, said that Israel had carried out missile strikes on the airport, but it did not specify what had been hit. The Lebanese news channel Al Mayadeen reported that Israeli missiles had passed over the Golan Heights, and that Israeli jets had not entered Syrian airspace.

Last month, Israel took the rare step of confirming that it had carried out several strikes in central Syria, also against what it said were efforts to transfer weapons to Hezbollah. The Shiite group is aligned with Iran and is fighting in Syria alongside forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian government responded by firing antiaircraft missiles at Israeli jets, but these were in turn shot down by Israel’s new antimissile system, Arrow, which the Israeli news media said had been deployed for the first time.

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Flames rising in the distance, as seen from the Syrian rebel-held town of Douma on Thursday. They were believed to be from the Damascus airport.

Credit
Sameer Al-Doumy/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Thursday, the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, suggested that his country was likely to agree to any American request to assist in strikes on Syria, possibly without consulting British lawmakers. He added in an interview with the BBC that if Washington proposed action in response to a chemical weapons attack, for instance, Britain would be unlikely to refuse to give support.

“In my view, and I know it’s also the view of the prime minister, it would be difficult for us to say ‘no,’ ” Mr. Johnson said.

British participation in such operations is rarely crucial militarily, but it lends political support to the United States. As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, its government is seeking to build closer ties with Washington.

British law does not require the government to seek parliamentary approval before starting a military action, though prime ministers have done so in recent years.

In 2013, the Conservative prime minister at the time, David Cameron, was unable to muster votes in Parliament to approve strikes against the Assad government intended to deter the use of chemical weapons.

Israel has carried out intermittent strikes inside Syria, fearing that Iran is helping Hezbollah build its arsenal amid the chaos of the civil war.

An explosion last May that killed Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah commander, was also widely believed to have been carried out by Israel in the military section of the Damascus airport. Hezbollah and Iran have military offices there for those assisting with the war in Syria.

Israel has also struck Hezbollah and Syrian military targets in southern Syria, in what appears to be an effort to prevent the militant group from gaining a foothold along the boundary between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel, which annexed the Golan Heights after seizing them from Syria in the 1967 war, a move not recognized under international law, counts Hezbollah as one of its most potent threats; it fought a monthlong war with the group across the Lebanese-Israeli border in 2006.

Both sides say they do not want another war but are prepared to fight one. Hezbollah took reporters on a tour of the Lebanese-Israeli border this month to show Israeli fortifications that are to be used in the event of a violent conflict.

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