On July 12, US officials confirmed that Israel carried out a strike against Yakhont missiles near Latakia, Syria on July 5. Despite media reports to the contrary, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had denied that Israel was responsible for the incident. [See Threat Matrix report, Did Israel strike in Syria again?.]
In one of the images, a warehouse appears to have been destroyed along with its contents. It is not clear if the Yakhont missiles were stored in this location. But if they were, it seems highly likely that they were successfully eliminated.
Another image shows a series of storage warehouses. According to Israel Defense, “impact can be identified with certainty at five warehouses.” A third image shows “about six cargo transporters” not far from the sites of the strikes.
There is strong reason to believe that the Yakhont missiles targeted by Israel were those described by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in mid-May. The Journal even noted that Israel would possibly look to target the shipment “in the near future” out of fears that the weapons could be transferred “within days” to Hezbollah.
It is still unclear how Israel carried out the most recent strike. In previous strikes, Israeli aircraft never actually entered Syrian air space, according to reports, but rather used a lofting maneuver while over Lebanon. According to the Wall Street Journal, US officials declined to provide details on the recent strike.
Speculation has since swirled. For example, the notoriously unreliable Uzi Mahnaimi claimed in the Sunday Times that Israeli Dolphin-class submarines fired cruise missiles at the arms depot. Today, the pro-Kremlin RT alleged that Israeli aircraft used a military base in Turkey to carry out the strikes. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu denounced the RT report. “Turkey will neither be a part nor a partner of such attacks. Those who made these claims want to damage Turkey’s power and reputation,” Davutoglu said.
Past Israel strikes in Syria since March 2011
Since the start of the uprising against Bashar al Assad in Syria, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has carried out at least three other strikes in Syria.
In late January, the IAF reportedly struck targets near the Scientific Studies and Research Center (Centre D’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques) in Jamraya. According to reports, the IAF targeted a weapons convoy, which included Russian-made SA-17 antiaircraft missiles, near the facility.
While some reports of the January strike suggested that the SSRC facility itself was targeted and “flattened,” satellite imagery revealed that the facility, known for its ties to Syria’s chemical weapons program, was relatively unscathed. The images did show a burnt road near the facility, possibly indicating the location of the Syrian weapons convoy when it was hit, however.
In early May, the IAF carried out two separate strikes in Syria. The first strike on May 3 reportedly targeted Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles from Iran, which were located at Damascus International Airport. The second strike on May 5 reportedly retargeted the SSRC facility that was struck in January.
Although Israeli officials have not taken official responsibility for any of the alleged strikes, they have repeatedly warned that they are prepared to act in Syria to prevent Hezbollah and other terror groups from obtaining advanced weaponry.