Russia has moved almost all of its warships from the port of Tartus in Syria ahead of a potential strike on the country by the United States, according to satellite images published Wednesday.
The development came a day after US President Donald Trump issued a strongly worded warning of an impending strike in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack in the town of Douma by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, indicating a potential military confrontation between the two superpowers.
The photos were posted on Twitter by ImageSat International, an Israeli company which focuses on high-resolution satellite imagery.
One of them, undated, shows what ImageSat described as Russia’s regular deployment of its naval vessels in Tartus. It included 11 warships, cargo vessels and submarines.
ISI reveals: Disappearance of most of the #Russian #Naval Forces from #Tartus Port, #Syria.
Those missing naval vessels have now been deployed at sea due to possible near-future #strikes. Only one #kilo class submarine remained.#russiannavy #Syriastrikes #foxnews #kilo pic.twitter.com/guRA9w0qqt
— ImageSat Intl. (@ImageSatIntl) April 11, 2018
A second image shows most of those vessels gone on Wednesday, April 11, after Trump issued the warning, with only one Kilo-class submarine remaining in the Syrian port.
The rest have been “deployed at sea due to possible near-future strikes,” according to ImageSat.
Earlier this week, Trump warned that “missiles will be coming” and told Russia “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” — and declared that US relations with Russia have plunged to a historic low.
Trump’s warlike tweets came in response to a warning from Russia’s ambassador to Beirut, who took to a television network run by the Hezbollah terror group to declare that any US missiles would be shot down “as well as the sources they were fired from.”
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
With the UN Security Council failing thus far to find a diplomatic solution, Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday time was running out.
“Today, I called the Ambassadors of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council to reiterate my deep concern about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiraling out of control,” he said, referring to the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.
Moscow and Washington have so far vetoed each other’s motions to set up an international investigation into chemical weapons use.
Opponents of unilateral US action called an emergency closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council for later Thursday.
Meanwhile, Moscow said the formerly rebel-held district of Eastern Ghouta — including Douma, the target of Saturday’s attack — had been “totally stabilized” and would soon be patrolled by Russian military police.
Russian army continued to deny their side’s latest victory came after Assad launched a chemical attack on the last rebel-held pocket of the enclave in the Damascus suburbs, instead accusing the White Helmets civil defense organization of staging the massacre.
Trump’s spokeswoman dismissed this idea, and pointedly refused to acknowledge that concern about the risks of a direct confrontation with Russia would hold the US military back.
“The intelligence provided certainly paints a different picture,” she said. “The president holds Syria and Russia responsible for this chemical weapons attack.”
But while the Russian president’s lieutenants continued to up the ante with threats and allegations, Vladimir Putin himself adopted a more statesmanlike tone, in remarks to new ambassadors presenting their credentials at the Kremlin.
“The situation in the world is becoming more and more chaotic but all the same we hope that common sense will finally prevail and international relations will take a constructive path,” he said.
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.