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Rebels Hint that Israel Attacked in Syria

Syrian rebels claim that “foreign forces” destroyed advanced Russian anti-ship missiles in Latkia last week.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/10/2013, 5:46 AM

Syrian and Kurdish rebel fighters walk in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo
Syrian and Kurdish rebel fighters walk in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo
AFP photo

The Syrian rebels said on Tuesday that “foreign forces” had destroyed advanced Russian anti-ship missiles in Syria last week, hinting that Israel may have been behind the attack.

On Friday, there were reports of explosions that rocked several army ammunition depots in the western Syrian province of Latakia, possibly after they were targeted with rockets.

Qassem Saadeddine, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, told Reuters that the rebels' intelligence network had identified newly supplied Russian Yakhont missiles being stored in the depots that were hit.

"It was not the FSA that targeted this," Saadeddine told Reuters. "It is not an attack that was carried out by rebels.

"This attack was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean," he added.

Rebels described hearing and seeing huge blasts, the ferocity of which, they said, was beyond the firepower available to them but consistent with that of a modern military like Israel's.

Israel has not confirmed or denied involvement, and the Syrian government has not commented on the incident beyond a report noting a "series of explosions" at the site.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday that Israel does not interfere in the affairs of neighboring countries, but it does act when its red lines are crossed. Some interpreted these remarks as a hint that Israel may have been involved in a strike in Syria.

"We’ve established red lines regarding our interests and we maintain them. Whenever there is an explosion or attack over there, the Middle East blames us anyway,” Yaalon said vaguely.

In May, Yaalon said that Israel "will know what to do" if Russia delivers highly advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

These remarks were also viewed by some media outlets as “an apparent allusion to another air strike” on Syria.

On Monday, the Free Syrian Army claimed that the Israel Air Force had destroyed a warehouse holding Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles east of the city of Homs in western Syria.

The rebels' claim, which was reported by the Israel Hayom daily newspaper, has not been corroborated by any other independent source.

In a Facebook post titled "The new Israeli strike," the rebels alleged that "the brave Syrian regime has conceded that a new Israeli strike targeted a warehouse containing Russian S-300 missiles and launchers. The facility was located in the al-Qassia camp, near the town of al-Hafa, east of Homs."

The post further insinuated that the attack was meant to stop the Free Syrian Army from seizing the advanced weapons system.