Syrian rebels, a U.S. official, and an Israeli official have all more-than-gently suggested that a massive explosion at a Syrian base earlier today was the work of an Israeli Air Force strike. The purported attack is one among a handful of airstrikes against Syrian military installations over the course of the past year that officials believe originated in Israel.
CNN quoted an unidentified U.S. administration official on Thursday as saying Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian base near the port of Latakia, targeting missiles that Israel thought might be transferred to its Lebanese militia enemy Hezbollah.
One Syrian opposition source, a defector from air force intelligence with contacts in the Latakia region, said Israel struck a strategic missile battery near a village called Ain Shikak where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces kept long-range Russian missiles that are among their most powerful weapons.
This news comes on the same day Syria was said to have finally destroyed all of its chemical weapons assembly sites. This attack, like previous ones carried out this year, is thought to be against Assad’s advanced weapons arsenal, largely imported from Russia and suspected to be on the way to Hezbollah.
Earlier Thursday, Al-Arabiya quoted opposition forces as saying the base held S-125 missiles.
The S-125 is especially effective against maneuverable low- to medium-altitude targets, including aircraft. The Egyptians used such missiles with some success during the War of Attrition and the 1973 Yom Kippur war, and batteries used by Iraq may have knocked down coalition aircraft in the First Gulf War.
Israeli officials haven’t said much of anything about any of these developments.