At the time, reports suggested that the target in Latakia was a Russian-made S-125 missile system. Newly released satellite imagery from Oct. 30 confirms this and more. According to Israel Defense, which obtained the images from Digital Globe, “[t]he launchers were in the process of undergoing upgrades.”
[A]n analysis of the photos indicates that it is a battery that underwent upgrade to an M2 or K2-class S-125 system, which renders the battery mobile while additionally improving the locking systems and the ability to engage targets simultaneously. In its new version, the system is further equipped with optical systems for contending with electronic warfare disruptions, cruise missiles, a certain type of ballistic missiles and interceptions by US F-16 fighters.
The report also posited that “it is possible that the intent was to upgrade the S-125 batteries in the Latakia region to S-300 systems as well.” In early October, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that Syria was “exploiting the mobility of its S-125 Pechora-2M surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, which were recently upgraded in Russia.”
In late May 2013, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Israel “will know what to do” if Russia supplied Syria with S-300 systems.
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.
Leaks by US officials regarding the Israeli strikes in Syria have led to some tension between the US and Israel. Following the most recent strikes, Israeli officials denounced the leaks by the US as “scandalous” and “unthinkable.” Similarly, following the May strikes US officials issued an apology for the leaks to their Israeli counterparts.
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