US officials: Israel struck targets near Damascus and Latakia

A US official confirmed to CNN today that Israel struck a military base near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia. A military base near Damascus, according to a US official, was also targeted by Israel, CBS News reported.

The target of the strike in Latakia, according to the official, was “missiles and related equipment the Israelis felt might be transferred to Hezbollah,” CNN reported. According to the Associated Press, the target in Latakia was Russian-made SA-125 missiles.

Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon reiterated that Israel is prepared to act in Syria to prevent Hezbollah and other terror groups from obtaining advanced weaponry. Ya’alon’s comments came amidst still unconfirmed Kuwaiti reports that Israel had struck a shipment of missiles destined for Hezbollah.

Since the start of the uprising against Bashar al Assad in Syria, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has carried out at least four other strikes in Syria. In those strikes, Israeli aircraft never entered Syrian air space. In three of the strikes, according to reports, Israeli aircraft used a lofting maneuver while over Lebanon. In another of the strikes, the lofting maneuver was used while over the eastern Mediterranean.

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.

Although 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. According to the New York Times, the missiles were flown through Iraqi airspace from Iran before reaching Damascus, where they were destroyed. The second strike, on May 5, reportedly retargeted the SSRC facility that was struck in January.

Then, on July 5, Israel carried out an airstrike against Yakhont missiles near Latakia. According to US officials, some of the missiles were not hit as they had been moved in advance. In the days after the July 5 strike, Israeli media outlets released satellite imagery of the location of the strike. In one of the images, a warehouse appeared to have been destroyed along with its contents, while another image showed a series of storage warehouses, some of which appeared to have taken hits.

Although Israeli officials have not taken official responsibility for any of the alleged strikes, they have repeatedly warned and proven that they are prepared to act in Syria to prevent Hezbollah and other terror groups from obtaining advanced weaponry.

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