Multiple media outlets are reporting that Israel was behind the mysterious explosions that hit an arms depot at Syria’s main port of Latakia earlier this month. The reports say Russian-made P-800 Yakhont anti-ship missiles were destroyed in the July 5 strikes, because Israel is concerned they could be used to target its navy.
Reports from CNN, The New York Times and the Sunday Times contradict each other in one significant detail: “Multiple U.S. officials” tell CNN and “American officials” tell The New York Times that the July 5 strike was carried out by airstrikes. But the Sunday Times reports that Israel used its Navy’s Dolphin-class submarine to hit the coastal target from the sea.
Israel has denied involvement in the strike, but if the reports are true it would mean Israel believes the threat the missiles pose is so severe it is willing to take the risk of irritating the Kremlin by striking Russian-delivered equipment.
It would also mean Obama administration officials are again leaking information that could potentially harm Israel’s security.
In May, TheBlaze quoted an Israel Radio report that the Obama administration had apologized to Israel for leaking to the media classified information that the Israeli Air Force was responsible for airstrikes on Damascus Airport that month. According to Israel Radio, the administration blamed “low-level” officials for the unauthorized leak.
Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center, told TheBlaze at the time, “Can you imagine if things were reversed and somebody did that to the U.S.?”
If the strike was carried out by sea, it would – according to Israel’s Ynet News – mark Israel’s first naval strike on Syria since the civil war began more than two years ago.
The British Sunday Times newspaper reports that 50 Russian-made missiles sent earlier this year to aid President Bashar Assad’s army were hit.
According to the Sunday Times, the attack was closely coordinated with the United States.
This is how The Telegraph in 2010 described the Russian equipment’s capability: “With a range of nearly 200 miles, the Yakhont is known for its accuracy and its ability to avoid detection because of its speed and low trajectory. It is also far more sophisticated that any of the anti-ship missiles presently in Syria’s arsenal.” Depending on how the Syria conflict evolves, the missiles could, in principle, also threaten U.S. or NATO-ships were they to ever be deployed against Assad’s forces.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has denied that Israel was behind the strikes.
“It has been a long time that we are not intervening in Syria’s bloody war. Red lines were presented and we maintain them,” said Ya’alon, according to Ynet.
“There is an explosion here or an attack there, somewhere in the Middle East, most of the time they accuse us,” he said
Israel Hayom reports that the Iranian network Al-Alam quotes high-ranking Syrian officials who also deny the CNN report.
CNN and other news agencies have reported three previous Israeli airstrikes against Syrian facilities believed to be holding weapons destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.