CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Despite security improvements, residual elevated risk of collateral damage at Damascus Airport, mainly from Israeli airstrikes

14 January 2019
All international airlines suspended scheduled flights into Damascus International Airport following the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011. Source: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Security at Damascus International Airport has improved, but IHS Markit assesses that there is a residual elevated risk of random collateral damage to aircraft on the ground from Israeli airstrikes and occasional indirect rocket or mortar fire by jihadist militants.
  • In the event of Israeli airstrikes on targets in Damascus province, which have occurred about once or twice a month, there is a high risk of accidental shootdown for aircraft approaching Damascus International Airport from Syrian surface-to-air missiles.

Event

The director of Syrian Air, Shafa al-Nouri, told the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on 13 January that several Gulf-based airlines were preparing to resume scheduled flights to Damascus International Airport.

Airlines considering a resumption of flights to Damascus, Syria, reportedly included the UAE's Etihad Airways, Bahrain's Gulf Air, and Oman Air. The announcement follows the normalisation of diplomatic relations between several Arab countries and the Assad government in recent weeks. The UAE reopened their embassy in Damascus on 27 December, and Bahrain and Kuwait have since announced that they intend to follow.

Risks to aircraft on the ground

Damascus International Airport is no longer at risk of coming under sustained indirect fire or ground attack by the opposition, following the government's recapture of the last opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in May 2018.

There remains an elevated risk, however, of random collateral damage to aircraft on the ground from occasional indirect weapons fire by jihadist militant cells operating in the desert areas to the east of Damascus. The last recorded incident of this kind took place on 31 January 2018, when unidentified militants fired several mortars bombs at the airport, targeting a plane that had just landed carrying the Syrian government delegation returning from the Sochi summit in Russia. At least one of the rounds detonated within 100-200 m of an aircraft next to the main terminal, according to a photograph shared on social media.

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