Dramatic increase in cargo flights from Iran to Syria

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The following is an English-language version of Levant Network research prepared for Akhbar Alaan.

In the past two weeks, two cargo planes accused by the US in the past of moving weapons for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have dramatically increased their flights from Tehran to Syria, according to an investigation prepared by Levant Networks for Akhbar Alaan.

Levant Network’s review of FlightRadar24 data on over 200 flights of the Syrian Air jets with the registrations YK-ATA and YK-ATB since April reveal these two planes flew 13 times from Tehran to Latakia since August 16.

In the last week alone, the two Ilyushin IL-76 cargo planes flew 10 times into Syria from Tehran Mehrabad International Airport, which is used by Iran’s air force and for domestic flights within Iran. 

The Syrian Air jets both flew everyday from Iran to Latakia International Airport between August 23 and August 27, according to FlightRadar24.

Latakia International Airport shares its facilities with the Hmeimim Airbase, which has been used by Russia since September 2015.

The 13 Tehran-Latakia flights in the last two by the cargo planes constitute 43% of all of their Iran to Syria flights since April 20, when the Syrian regime allowed international flights to resume following the outbreak of COVID-19.

In 2013, the US Department of the Treasury sanctioned Syrian Airlines, including the YK-ATA and YK-ATB jets, for acting on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force.

The US Department of the Treasury said that “the IRGC Qods Force has used Syrian Arab Airlines cargo flights to transport illicit cargo – including weapons and ammunition – to Syria.”

According to Washington, Hezbollah has helped facilitate these flights for the Qods Force.  

Since April, approximately half of the YK-ATA and YK-ATB cargo plane’s flights have been between Damascus and al-Qamishli, a regime-controlled enclave in northeast Syria.

A leading open-source intelligence analyst who uses the Twitter handle @obretix posted satellite images from August 11 of YK-ATA at Qamishli airport next to two Russian military helicopters.

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