Report: U.S. officials say Israeli air strike hit Syrian arms depot on July 5

Special to

WASHINGTON — Israel was said to have again attacked Syria.

The United States determined that the Israel Air Force struck a Syrian
military depot in the port of Latakia on July 5. Three U.S. officials told
CNN that the attack targeted the P-800 Yakhont coastal defense system
procured by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad from Russia in 2012.

an Israeli Air Force F-16I jet fighter takes off at the Ramon Air Force Base in the Negev Desert.  EPA/Jim Hollander
An Israeli Air Force F-16 takes off at the Ramon Air Force Base in the Negev Desert.  /EPA/Jim Hollander

“A series of explosions on July 5 at a critical Syrian port was the result of air strikes by Israeli warplanes, according to multiple U.S. officials,” CNN reported.

If correct, this would mark the fourth Israeli air strike on Syria in 2013. All of the attacks were said to have targeted advanced missiles or air defense systems from Iran.

In a report on July 12, Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr quoted U.S. officials as saying that the Israeli operation was meant to stop deployment of the P-800, which includes a missile with a range of 300 kilometers. CNN said none of the three U.S. officials agreed to be identified.

Israel has not responded to the CNN report. But Israeli Defense Minister
Moshe Ya’alon said Israel was not responsible for the explosions that
destroyed a military warehouse outside Latakia in early July.

“There is an explosion here or an attack there somewhere in the Middle
East,” Ya’alon said. “Most of the time they accuse us.”

CNN, regarded as close to the administration of President Barack Obama,
said the United States determined that the Assad regime has not received
the heavy weapons ordered from Russia. This included Mi-24 helicopters
upgraded by Moscow.

“The United States believes some supplies, including ammunition and
small arms, have been unloaded in recent weeks,” CNN said. “So far, there
has been no indication of heavy weapons or helicopters that the Syrian
regime of Bashar Assad anticipates.”

For his part, Ya’alon raised the prospect that Syria would soon receive
the S-300PMU2 air defense system from Russia. The defense minister said
Israel was prepared for such a delivery.

“The shipments haven’t set out yet and I hope they won’t,” Ya’alon said.
“If they do arrive in Syria, God forbid, we’ll know what to do.”