Did Israel hit another Syria missile site?

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 11, 2013

The mysterious circumstances surrounding a series of explosions near a Syrian port last Thursday have led to speculation that this could have been an Israeli attack on advanced Russian missiles.

In the early hours of the morning last Friday, large explosions were heard at the Syrian naval base of Safira, near the large Mediterranean port of Latakia.

According to local residents, arms depots at the base were destroyed in the blasts.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said that the attack had been carried out by a foreign army and that the target had been newly supplied Russian-built Yakhont anti-shipping cruise missiles, capable of hitting targets hundreds of miles out to sea.

The Yakhont missile that Russia has been supplying to the Assad regime over the past two years has been identified in the past by Israeli sources as a “game-changing” weapons system capable of limiting operations by the Israeli navy along Syria’s shore and hitting drilling rigs in Israel’s offshore natural gas fields. No official Syrian or Russian source has acknowledged that the Russian missiles were hit.

Latakia is in the coastal region where many of the Allawite sect — to which the Assad family belong — have set up their refuge from the Syrian civil war.

If this was indeed an Israeli strike, it was at least the fourth to take place this year. In previous hits, advanced missiles, allegedly being transported to Hizbollah in Lebanon, have been destroyed, as have chemical weapons research facilities. A Syrian opposition website claimed that, in this case, the attack against Latakia came from the sea, perhaps from an Israeli “Dolphin” submarine.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon refused in discussions with journalists on Sunday to comment on the explosions in Latakia but said that “we are not involved in the bloody war in Syria. We have set out red lines. There are explosions here and there in the Middle East and we usually get blamed.”

Last updated: 8:45pm, July 11 2013