May 2, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Strikes Iranian Weapons at Aleppo Airport Ahead of Raisi’s Visit

May 2, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Strikes Iranian Weapons at Aleppo Airport Ahead of Raisi’s Visit

Latest Developments

Israeli missiles struck Aleppo International Airport on the evening of May 1, hitting a warehouse containing large amounts of ammunition. The attack killed a Syrian soldier and wounded seven others, including two civilians. The Aleppo airport suspended operations due to serious damage, with no estimates of when it will reopen.

The strikes occurred just before a May 3 visit to Syria by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. It will be the first visit of an Iranian president to Syria since 2010.

Expert Analysis

“Tehran’s support remains integral to the survival of the Assad regime. Iran provides the oil Syria can’t afford while deploying militias from across the region to reinforce Assad’s broken army. No matter what atrocities Assad commits, Tehran’s support does not waver — after all, it employs the same murderous tactics against its own domestic opponents. The U.S. should be working to cement Assad’s isolation yet instead is encouraging Arab governments to engage with him for the right price.” David Adesnik, FDD Senior Fellow and Director of Research

Preventing Iran From Gaining a Foothold

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said in an April 20 press briefing that Israel has been increasing attacks in Syria in the past few months to thwart Iranian weapon deliveries and prevent Iran-backed militias from gaining a foothold in the war-torn country. The May 1 strike is the fourth attack on the Aleppo airport in just over seven months. The previous attack, on March 22, targeted an underground munitions depot containing several Iranian military planes.

Close Allies

Iran is the Syrian regime’s closest regional ally. While Iranian leaders have avoided traveling to Syria since the civil war began, Assad has visited Tehran twice since 2011, most recently meeting with Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in May 2022. Assad’s forces rely heavily on financial, technical, and intelligence support from Iranian forces, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah. In 2020, an Iranian lawmaker stated that Tehran gave Assad between $20 billion and $30 billion in aid. Assad’s war machine has also operated thanks to oil from Iran and Russia.

Iran disguised shipments of weapons and military equipment aboard flights to the Aleppo airport as humanitarian aid for victims of the earthquake that hit Syria on February 6 and killed more than 6,000 Syrians. Syria serves as a conduit for Iran’s provision of advanced weapons — especially precision-guided munitions, or PGMs — to Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization that is the dominant force in Lebanon. PGMs, which can correct their course mid-flight, pose a grave threat to Israel because of the Jewish state’s small size and minimal redundancy of critical infrastructure.

Related Analysis

Iran Exploited Earthquake to Flood Weapons into Syria,” FDD Flash Brief

Assad Will Return to Arab League Summit, Courtesy of Saudi Invite,” FDD Flash Brief

Iranian Military Adviser Killed in Israeli Strike in Syria,” FDD Flash Brief

Biden is quietly encouraging Assad’s rehabilitation. He should reverse course,” by David Adesnik

PGMs: Iran’s Precision-Guided Munitions Project in the Shadow of a Nuclear Deal,” by Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Syria