Israeli submarines carried out the attack on an arms depot in the Syrian port city of Latakia on July 5, according to a report published in the British Sunday Times. US media previously claimed the offensive was carried out by the Israel Air Force.
The Times cited Middle East intelligence sources as stating that the Israeli Dolphin-class submarines targeted a contingent of 50 Russian-made Yakhont P-800 anti-ship missiles that had reportedly arrived earlier this year to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The alleged Israeli naval strike was repotedly closely coordinated with the US.
According to the newspaper, the Israeli fleet of German-built submarines launched a cruise missile at the weapons cache after which Syrian rebels reportedly attested to hearing early-morning explosions at a Syrian port-side naval barracks.
Syrian rebels said that they were not responsible for the explosions.
A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, Qassem Saadeddine, confirmed the attack hit Syrian Navy barracks at Safira. He said the rebel forces’ intelligence network had identified the newly supplied Yakhont missiles being stored there.
According to the rebels, the scale of the blasts was beyond the firepower available to them, but consistent with that of a modern military like Israel’s.
“It was not the FSA that targeted this,” Saadeddine said. “It is not an attack that was carried out by rebels. This attack was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean,”he added.
Several unnamed US officials allegedly told The New York Times, in an article published on Saturday, that the Israeli Air Force had targeted the Russian-made anti-ship missiles that posed a threat to Israel’s naval forces.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the attack.
“We have set red lines in regards to our own interests, and we keep them. There is an attack here, an explosion there, various versions – in any event, in the Middle East it is usually we who are blamed for most,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in response to the Latakia blasts.
The Syrian government has not commented on the incident either; a state television report mentioned a “series of explosions” at the site.
According to regional intelligence sources, the Israelis previously struck in Syria at least three times earlier this year to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry from Assad’s army to Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.
In all prior cases of strikes thought to be linked to Israel’s armed forces, Israeli officials have not gone on record to take responsibility for the attacks. Tel Aviv has made it clear however, that the country is prepared to go into Syria if it means preventing Hezbollah or other militant groups from obtaining additional weaponry, including chemical weapons.