Report: Syria Moved Missiles Before Israeli Airstrike
American intelligence analysts have concluded that a recent alleged Israeli airstrike on a warehouse in Syria did not succeed in destroying all of the Russian-made anti-ship cruise missiles that were its target, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
American officials who spoke to the newspaper on the matter predicted that further Israeli strikes are likely since some of the missiles hadn’t been destroyed.
On July 5, the Syrian rebels reported that explosions had 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, later said that the rebels' intelligence network had identified newly supplied Russian Yakhont missiles being stored in the depots that were hit.
He added that “foreign forces” had destroyed the missiles in Latakia, hinting that Israel may have been behind the attack.
Officials later told CNN that the series of explosions were the result of airstrikes by Israeli warplanes.
American intelligence analysts told the Times that while the warehouse was destroyed, at least some of the Yakhont missiles had been removed from their launchers and moved from the warehouse before the attack.
The officials who described the new assessment declined to be identified because they were discussing classified information.
Israeli officials have said that they do not intend to enter the civil war in Syria, but they have said they are prepared to prevent sophisticated weapons from falling into the hands of Lebanese terror group Hizbullah, which has joined the war to support President Bashar Al-Assad.
American and Israeli naval officials consider the missiles to be a serious threat to their ships.
After the Israeli attack, the Assad government sought to hide the fact that the missiles had been missed by setting fire to launchers and vehicles at the site to create the impression that the strike had landed a devastating blow, according to American intelligence reports cited by the Times.
The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.
The July 5 attack near Latakia was the fourth alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria this year.
Providing new details about the raid, American officials told the Times that the attack had been carried out by Israeli aircraft that flew over the eastern Mediterranean, fired air-to-ground missiles and never entered Syrian airspace. The route of the Israeli aircraft led to some erroneous reports that the attack had been carried out by an Israeli submarine.
In addition to targeting the Yakhont missiles, Israel allegedly carried out an airstrike in late January aimed at another system provided by Russia: a convoy of SA-17 surface-to-air missiles that Israeli officials believed were destined for Hizbullah.
In May, Israeli warplanes allegedly conducted two days of airstrikes that targeted, among other things, a shipment of Fateh-110 missiles — mobile surface-to-surface missiles that had been provided by Iran and flown to Damascus, Syria, on transport planes that passed through Iraqi airspace.
The Fateh-110 missiles, which the Israelis feared were also intended for Hizbullah, have the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon.