Israel targeted Russian missiles in Syria raid
Israel carried out a raid last weekend on a warehouse full of Russian made anti-ship missiles.
Tremendous explosions heard in the port city of Latakia at the time were thought to be the work of rebels. But a Pentagon source told the New York Times, it was actually an attack by Israel on the recently delivered weapons.
The officials, who declined to be identified because they were discussing intelligence reports, said the attack occurred July 5 near Latakia, Syria's principal port city. The target was a type of missile called the Yakhont, they said.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, declined to comment on the strike, as did George Little, the Pentagon spokesman.
The Russian-made weapon has been a particular worry for the Pentagon because it expanded Syria's ability to threaten Western ships that could be used to transport supplies to the Syrian opposition, enforce a shipping embargo or support a possible no-flight zone.
The missile also represented a threat to Israel's naval forces and raised concerns that it might be provided to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that has joined the war on the side of the Syrian government.
The attack against the missiles came to light after Syrian rebels said that they were not responsible for large explosions at Latakia on July 5, and that a missile warehouse had been hit. American officials did not provide details on the extent of the damage or the number of missiles struck.
Israeli officials have said they would not take sides in the civil war in Syria, but they have made it clear that Israel is prepared to carry out airstrikes to prevent sophisticated weapons from being diverted to Hezbollah.
The strike near Latakia, first reported by CNN, was the fourth known Israeli air attack against targets in Syria this year.
Israel has a longstanding policy of silence on pre-emptive military strikes. In October, Israeli officials declined to discuss reports that Israeli airstrikes had destroyed a weapons factory in Khartoum, Sudan's capital. Israel has also never acknowledged bombing a nuclear reactor in 2007 that was under construction in Syria.
While the Obama administration has been cautious about getting involved militarily in the Syria crisis, the Israeli attack this month underscored how the conflict has continued to draw in outside powers. Iran has been ferrying weapons to Damascus on flights that pass through Iraq's airspace and has sent members of its paramilitary Quds Force to help the Assad government.
This was a circumstance where a military strike by Israel was in both the US and Israel's interest. If things really start to fall apart in Syria, we're going to have to evacuate thousands of American citizens. This can't be done by plane, only by ship. Those missiles posed a threat to our Navy as well as Israel's fleet, and other western naval vessels.