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Syria's Aleppo airport reopens after air strike

Syria's Aleppo airport
Syria's Aleppo airport

DAMASCUS: Syria's Aleppo airport, a key conduit for relief flights after the devastating February earthquake, reopened on Friday, an official said, following Israeli air strikes this week that hit its runway.

The damage caused by Tuesday's raid forced aid deliveries and all flights to be diverted to Latakia and Damascus airports, the transport ministry had said.

"The airport has been operational since 8 his morning the morning... We repaired all the damage," ministry official Souleiman Khalil said on Friday.

However, "no civilian planes are scheduled to land in Aleppo airport today", an airport official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to talk to the press.

Israeli warplanes killed three people in the raid on the airport in Aleppo, Syria's second city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor had said.

Before that more than 80 aid flights had landed there with relief supplies following the quake that killed more than 50,000 people in Syria and Turkey, Khalil had said at the time.

The United Nations' resident Syria coordinator El Mostafa Benlamlih said in a statement on Wednesday that he was "deeply concerned" about the airport closure.

"The impact of this closure impedes humanitarian access and could have drastic humanitarian consequences for millions of people who have been affected by the earthquake," he added.

Tuesday's Israeli raid was the second of its kind since the 7.8 magnitude quake struck Syria and Turkey.

On February 19, an Israeli air strike killed 15 people in a Damascus district housing state security agencies, the British-based Observatory had said.

Israel has attacked Aleppo and Damascus airports several times in recent years, but it rarely comments on individual strikes against Syria.

It has, however, vowed to keep up its air campaign against Syria to stop arch foe and Damascus ally Iran from consolidating its presence there.

Since Syria's civil war erupted in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against its northern neighbour, targeting government troops as well as allied forces and Hizbullah fighters.

Meanwhile, at least four people were killed and eight others injured in an explosion near a building manned by fighters in eastern Syria, activists and a war monitor said on Wednesday, amid conflicting reports about the cause.

According to local activists, a huge blast was heard at a building near the Iranian cholera hospital in the Al Hamidiyah neighbourhood in the eastern city of Deir al Zour.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the civil war in the country, said the blast had coincided with the sound of drones in the area.

The dead included a driver of a truck loaded with pipes, which was parked near the building, the Britain-based watchdog added.

"We have information that the target was a factory for short-range missiles. We think this was the target," the observatory's head Rami Abdel-Rahman, said.

He added that following the blast the fighters in the area and government forces cordoned off the area.

Local activists pointed the finger at a US-led military coalition.

Syria's state news agency SANA reported that a mine left behind by"terrorists" in Al Hamidiyah went off, killing three people and wounding seven others. Pictures posted on SANA showed a large truck totally damaged and massive damage in a nearby building.

But the observatory's Abdel Rahman said: "The damage were are seeing is definitely not a mine explosion." - dpa/AFP

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