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Syria FM: UN plane grounded after Israeli strike

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said on Thursday that a United Nations plane has been grounded at the Damascus International Airport after an Israeli strike on the facility.

Speaking at a conference for the return of migrants, Mekdad said the U.N. plane "is sitting there" waiting for the airport to be repaired.

Israel marked a major escalation in its years-long campaign of airstrikes in Syria, carrying out an attack earlier this month that shut down the country’s main civilian airport in Damascus as Israel steps up efforts to stop Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah.

The strike rendered the main runway unserviceable until further notice, according to the Syrian transportation ministry.

The foreign minister said the U.N. plane holding humanitarian supplies is stuck and can't fly out.

Mekdad was speaking at an annual refugees conference organised by Russia and Syria.

Israel's military has declined to comment on the airstrike. It rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.

For years, Israel has been carrying out airstrikes in Syria, saying it is determined to prevent Iran’s entrenchment near its northern border and the smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah, which is funded and armed by Tehran.

The strikes have largely hit bases of Iranian-allied militias, including Hezbollah, as well as convoys said to be carrying arms to Hezbollah.

Friday’s strikes were the most extensive against a civilian target and, by shutting the airport down, had the widest impact. As in the past, Israel did not claim responsibility for the strikes.

The airport had remained operational even during the worst days of Syria’s 11-year civil war. It has both a civilian and a military section and satellite photos showed the runways on both sides with at least three craters each.

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