After three unnamed U.S. government officials confirmed to CNN on Saturday that Israel conducted a successful pre-dawn bombardment of Latakia, Syria, that appears to have destroyed a cache of 300-km range, Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles, Syria on Sunday denied Israel’s involvement, and that the bombing had even occurred. Meanwhile, Israel maintained its silence.
Iranian television channel Al Ahlam quoted an official from Bashar Assad’s government in Damascus who issued the denial, contradicting multiple eyewitness reports of the explosions, and even photographic evidence. Israel’s Channel 2 released satellite footage (left) of the Syrian military depot before and after the bombardment.
The July 5 bombing was first reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which said: ”huge explosions shook the area where a large Syrian army base and weapons depots are located.” According to reports by the SOHR published by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, fighter jets were seen in the skies around the city of Al-Haffah, which lies east of Latakia. Several troops were reported as having been killed or wounded in the ensuing explosions.
Qassem Saadeddine, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, told Reuters that the rebels’ intelligence network had identified missiles being stored in the depots which were hit. ”It was not the FSA that targeted this,” Saadeddine said. ”It is not an attack that was carried out by rebels. This attack was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean.” Syrian rebels described hearing and seeing huge blasts, the ferocity of which was beyond the firepower available to the FSA.
At the weekend, Israel maintained its silence on the matter. In May, Israel launched two strikes in Syrian territory. One of the strikes was thought to be on a convoy of antiaircraft weapons near the country’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, which was previously targeted by the Israeli Air Force in January. Another strike, which took place on May 3, targeted Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles provided by Iran and based at Damascus International Airport.
“We have set red lines in regards to our own interests, and we keep them,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters on Tuesday. “There is an attack here, an explosion there, various versions – in any event, in the Middle East, it is usually we who are blamed for most.”
The three U.S. officials told CNN that Israel believed the Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles posed a threat to its naval forces, which is why the IDF struck. If the claims are true, the strike would mark the fourth Israeli action in Syria within the past six months.
Channel 2′s satellite footage of site can be viewed below: