BEIRUT: The first Syrian flight in a decade between the northern city of Aleppo and Beirut touched down in the Lebanese capital early on Friday, reopening a route that had been suspended since the outbreak of fighting in Syria in 2011.
Syrian Air flight 183 landed at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport with 36 passengers before heading back to Aleppo carrying 43 passengers.
It was the first commercial flight since air traffic between the two cities was halted following the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in March, 2011.
Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, had its airport closed for years because of the fighting.
Syrian Air said that it plans to operate flights every Friday between Beirut and Aleppo.
The decision to reopen the round-trip route was taken by the Syrian government last December.
Commercial flights between Beirut and Damascus have continued during the conflict, with Syrian Air currently conducting three flights a week on the route.
Other flights between Beirut and Qamishli have been carried out by Cham Wings Airlines, a private Syrian aviation company.
Various Syrian airlines have been hit by US sanctions, with the Caesar Act targeting Bashar Assad’s regime as well as its supporters and financiers.
However, a source at Beirut’s airport told Arab News: “These sanctions do not affect us. These aircraft are not prohibited from flying outside Syria, but it is forbidden for the receiving country to provide any assistance in the event that anything breaks down, such as spare parts or fuel.”
Section 102 of the Caesar Act targets anyone who “knowingly sells or provides aircraft or spare aircraft parts that are used for military purposes in Syria for or on behalf of the government of Syria to any foreign person operating in an area directly or indirectly controlled by the government of Syria or foreign forces associated with the government of Syria.”
The sanctions are also aimed at any organization or individual that “knowingly provides significant goods or services associated with the operation of aircraft that are used for military purposes in Syria for or on behalf of the government of Syria.”
The source, who works with air traffic at the airport, added: “The only situation that prevents us from receiving airplanes is if the aircraft violates public safety according to the EU ban.”