In rare strike, Israeli warplanes said to attack Latakia port

Syria says jets fired missiles at storage depots reportedly belonging to Iran-linked militias, causing large explosions

Smoke rises from an alleged Israeli missile strike on the Syrian port of Latakia on December 7, 2021 (Screencapture/Twitter)
Smoke rises from an alleged Israeli missile strike on the Syrian port of Latakia on December 7, 2021 (Screencapture/Twitter)

Syria’s military said Israeli warplanes fired missiles on the port of the coastal city of Latakia early Tuesday without inflicting any human losses.

Syria’s state media quoted an unnamed military official as saying that several missiles struck the containers area in the port, setting some of them on fire. The official gave no further details.

It was a highly irregular attack on the port of Latakia, a vital facility where much of Syria’s imports are brought into the war-torn country and through which Iran reportedly brings in weapons to its militias in the country, including the Lebanese terrorist army Hezbollah.

Though Israel has regularly conducted raids against Iranian-linked targets in Syria, it rarely strikes close to Latakia, let alone inside the terminal, as the Russian military maintains a base of operations nearby. Due to its delicate relationship with Moscow, Israel typically refrains from carrying out attacks against targets if there are Russian troops nearby, though Israel believes that this well-known policy has led Iran to seek to protect its arms transfers by conducting them near Russian-controlled areas.

The previous time that Israel reportedly conducted a strike on a target in the city of Latakia — though not in the port — was in 2018, during which a Russian spy plane was accidentally shot down by Syrian air defenses, causing a major confrontation between Jerusalem and Moscow. Israel has also reportedly carried out raids against targets in the port city in 2014 and twice in 2013.

Syrian state TV reported that following the initial strike at roughly 1:20 a.m. Tuesday, five blasts were heard in the port and a huge fire erupted in the containers area. Fire engines were reportedly rushed to the port, likely indicating secondary explosions caused by the arms inside the depot detonating.

There was no comment from the Israeli military.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations. Many of the strikes in the past had targeted the main airport in the capital Damascus, through which Iran is also believed to transfer advanced arms to its proxies.

Israel has acknowledged, however, that it targets the bases of Iran-allied terror groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah that has fighters deployed in Syria. It says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for the groups.

Hezbollah is fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the decade-old civil war.

Israel says Iranian presence on its northern frontier is a red line, justifying its strikes on facilities and weapons inside Syria.

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