By Nicholas Blanford, Correspondent, Christian Science Monitor
Reports of a large explosion at a Syrian missile base near the Mediterranean coast town of Latakia have raised the question of whether Israel staged another airstrike against advanced weapons systems possibly intended for Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
The last alleged Israeli air strike in Syria was in early July, when Israeli jets over the Mediterranean fired long-range missiles at a Syrian military base north of Latakia. The alleged target was a consignment of advanced Russian P-800 Yakhont missiles that Israel believed were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Subsequent reports claimed that the P-800 Yakhonts were not destroyed in the air strike as they had already been moved, raising the prospect of another Israeli attempt to attack the missile consignment.
Hezbollah is a close ally of the Assad regime and Syria is the main conduit for the supply of weapons to the Iran-backed Lebanese group. It has deployed thousands of crack fighters into Syrian battlefronts to aid the Syrian army’s fight against rebels.
Gulf Daily News
BEIRUT: Reports of an explosion at a Syrian military base late on Wednesday have prompted speculation of a new Israeli attack on Syria but Israeli officials would not confirm a report on CNN that their jets had carried out a strike.
The channel quoted an unidentified US official yesterday as saying Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian base near the port of Latakia.
Israel has repeatedly warned that it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced weapons, notably from Iran, reaching Lebanon’s powerful Hizbollah group through Syria.
Update: RT is now reporting that an Obama administration official has confirmed to CNN that this was in fact an Israeli attack. There is still no comment from the Syrian or Israeli government. (Source)
On the heels of a reported chemical attack committed by the death squads on the Syria/Turkey border, a massive explosion has completely destroyed a Syrian air defense base in Snobar Jableh, Syria which is located near Latakia, a port city on the coast of the Mediterranean. Snobar Jableh is just south of Latakia.
The attacks allegedly were to have taken place on Wednesday night.
Although no one has publicly claimed responsibility for the explosion, both Syrian and Lebanese media are attributing the attack to Israeli forces. Even Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya is now reporting Israeli responsibility for the attacks, citing anonymous sources.
Al-Arabiya also claims that the target of the attacks were two shipments of SA-8 Surface-To-Air missiles slated for delivery to Hezbollah. The organization claims that the two targets were successfully destroyed.
Syrian news agency Dam Press is reporting that the facility was indeed heavily damaged but that there were no injuries. Business Insider claims that a Syrian security official has confirmed the attack.
However, Voice of Russia reports that Syria Special Services are denying the destruction of the base. VOA quotes a representative of Syrian intelligence services saying that “It is a lie and a provocation.”
The conflicting nature of the official responses could be attributed to the fact that, while the attack did indeed take place, the level of damage was not as severe as that claimed by death squads and Western/Israeli media outlets.
Israel and its Western sponsors have admitted to an unprovoked airstrike in Syrian territory this week. This is the latest of several assaults Israeli planes have carried out against neighboring Syria over the past year. CNN, in its report, “Israeli planes strike Syrian military base, U.S. official says,” admits:
Israeli warplanes struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia this week, an Obama administration official told CNN on Thursday.
An explosion at a missile storage site in the area was reported in the Middle Eastern press, but an attack has not been confirmed by the Israeli government.
The target, according to the Obama administration official, was missiles and related equipment the Israelis felt might be transferred to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.
When asked for comment, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman told CNN: “We don’t refer to foreign reports.”
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper claims in its article, “Report: Israel destroyed Hezbollah-bound missile shipment in Syria,” that:
According to the unnamed source, the strike targeted a shipment of missiles and related equipment Israeli intelligence estimated were to be transferred to Hezbollah.
Earlier on Thursday, citing anonymous sources, Al-Arabiya carried a similar report.
It said that the strikes targeted an SA-8 surface-to-air missile shipment for Hezbollah and that the two targets were destroyed.
SA-8 missiles are used in air-defense to protect airspace, and are not offensive weapons, making the recent Israeli attack all the more an egregious act of aggression in direct violation of international law.
Israel’s refusal to provide details to the press highlights the perceived impunity the rogue nation believes it operates with upon the international stage – striking beyond its borders without provocation, justification, or explanation. It is precisely because of this carefully cultivated belligerent posture that Israel has been chosen to carry out such attacks against Syria, despite it being only one of several nations currently involved in the arming, funding, and direction of terrorists flooding into Syria and miring the country in a now nearly 3-year-long deadly conflict.
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