Satellite firm releases pics of Syria site bombed in strike attributed to Israel
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Satellite firm releases pics of Syria site bombed in strike attributed to Israel

Buildings destroyed by jets late Friday reportedly housed missile production facility; several Iranian and pro-Iranian militants said killed, 17 injured

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International shows the aftermath of an airstrikes attributed to Israel that targeted a Syrian military base in Masyaf in the Hama province on April 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)
Satellite photos released by ImageSat International shows the aftermath of an airstrikes attributed to Israel that targeted a Syrian military base in Masyaf in the Hama province on April 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

An Israeli satellite imaging firm on Sunday released images of a Syrian military base that was targeted in an airstrike in the predawn hours of Saturday morning, which was attributed to Israel.

A large hangar and three nearby buildings were destroyed in the attack on the facility, near the city of Masyaf in the western Hama province, according to the satellite images analyzed and distributed by ImageSat International.

The structures hit were reportedly used in the production of missiles.

“ISI assesses that all the elements and/or equipment inside are completely destroyed as well,” the firm said.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International shows the aftermath of an airstrikes attributed to Israel that targeted a Syrian military base in Masyaf in the Hama province, on April 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

According to a report by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Arabic, a number of Iranian “elements” and pro-Iranian militants were killed in the alleged attack, and 17 people were injured.

The facility targeted in the strike was built from 2014 to 2016 next to an existing Syrian military base, according to ISI.

Syria’s official state news agency SANA said Israel targeted the base in Masyaf at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, but that Syrian air defenses intercepted the attack, downing some of the missiles fired. The regime mouthpiece said the interception resulted in the destruction of several buildings and the wounding of three “fighters.”

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International shows the aftermath of an airstrikes attributed to Israel that targeted a Syrian military base in Masyaf in the Hama province, on April 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

“The enemy missiles were dealt with and some of them were shot down before reaching their target, resulting in the damage of a few buildings and the injury of three fighters,” SANA said, according to a Reuters report.

The area is known to house Iranian forces and their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

Israel has reportedly conducted a number of strikes on sites around Masyaf in recent years.

As a rule, Israel does not comment on specific airstrikes in Syria, but does generally acknowledge conducting operations there.

Iran and Hezbollah, along with Russia, have been the top military backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the more than nine-year-long civil war in the country.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International shows the aftermath of an airstrikes attributed to Israel that targeted a Syrian military base in Masyaf in the Hama province, on April 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Israel has long-maintained that it will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria and will take action to prevent it as such a situation would present a threat to the Jewish state’s security.

Israel is said to have previously struck a Syrian scientific research center near Masyaf. Western officials have long associated the Scientific Studies and Research Center, known as CERS, with the manufacture of chemical arms and precision-guided missiles.

In July last year, Israeli jets reportedly targeted a missile production facility in Masyaf, where a leading Syrian chemical weapons and missile scientist was killed earlier that month in a car bombing attributed to Israel.

In September 2018, satellite photos published by an Israeli intelligence firm purported to show the establishment of an Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in the area of Wadi al-Uyun, near Masyaf. The photos, which were shared by ImageSat International, were said to show a facility resembling Iran’s Parchin facility, which has been linked to the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

File: Satellite image of CERS facility near Masyaf (screen capture: Google Earth)

The site was likely not targeted due to its close proximity to a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft battery, which is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world.

In February, ImageSat International said Syria’s powerful S-300 air defense system was “probably operational” in the area of Masyaf. The system would pose a potential threat to Israel’s aerial campaign against Iran in the country.

The firm based its assessment on multiple images of the anti-aircraft battery, which showed three of its four launchers in a raised position, signaling that they are likely ready to be used by the Syrian military.

Israel has threatened to destroy the S-300 system if it is used against its fighter jets, regardless of the potential blowback Jerusalem would face from Russia, which provided Syria with the powerful air defense battery.

Satellite photos released by ImageSat International appear to show three out of four missile launchers of the S-300 air defense system in the raised position in Masyaf on February 5, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Last month, Israel allegedly attacked Iranian targets near the northern city of Aleppo. SANA said at the time that the airstrike targeted several bases near an industrial zone by the airport and that air defenses had managed to intercept several incoming missiles.

Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz appeared to confirm last month’s attack, saying in an interview with Israel Radio that “as far as Iran knows, it’s Israel” that had carried out the strike, adding that it was a “challenging” operation.

The strikes come at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Syria, following last month’s decision by the US administration to recognize Israel’s control over the Golan Heights. The decision sparked condemnation and protests in Syria.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran and Hezbollah.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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