Beirut: Air traffic resumed on Friday at Damascus airport and the road to the Syrian capital reopened after a night of heavy clashes between rebels and troops in the area, a watchdog and airport sources said.
But at least four people were killed in fresh fighting and shelling around Damascus, including in Babila to the southeast near the airport road and in Daraya to the southwest, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Warplanes pounded the northeastern town of Irbin and circled over the Eastern Ghuta region, amid shelling of orchards in the south of the capital, all opposition strongholds where rebels have rear bases, it added.
An airport source in Damascus told AFP air traffic and passenger boarding was normal on Friday. EgyptAir and Emirates had on Thursday announced a suspension of flights due to the violence which closed the main road to the airport.
“Today after the road was secured, we sent a new telegram to inform them [airlines] that security was restored,” the source added. “For the moment, we have not had any arrivals, but the airport is operating normally.”
The director of SyrianAir, Ghida Abdul Latif, said a flight to the Saudi city of Jeddah via Aleppo had departed on Friday as had two domestic flights bound for Latakia on the coast.
Flights to Cairo and Khartoum were scheduled for later on Friday.
The SyrianAir director blamed Thursday’s interruption on a “technical problem on runway 23, which was quickly repaired”.
Underscoring the dangers on the 27-kilometre road linking the capital to the airport, the United Nations said four of its staffers were wounded when their bus to the airport was targeted by gunfire on Thursday.
The Britain-based Observatory said the two were killed when their bus was hit by a shell, which a security source blamed on rebels.
State television said on Thursday night that the airport road had been “secured” after military intervention.
But the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground, said that rebels overnight rebels bombed the Harran Al Awamid barracks, which is responsible for protecting the airport.
The army had taken control of the western side of the road leading to the airport and a small portion on the east by dawn, allowing travellers to move through, according to a military source.
“But the most difficult part is yet to come. The army wants to take control of the eastern side, where there are thousands of terrorists and this will take several days,” he said.