Report: Israel Behind Recent Strike on Syria Missile Depot, U.S. Officials Say

Airstrike targeted Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles, unnamed officials tell CNN.

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Several blasts that took place on July 5 at a critical Syrian port was the result of airstrikes by Israeli fighter jets, multiple U.S. officials told CNN.

Friday's CNN report cited three unnamed U.S. officials as saying that the airstrikes targeted Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles.

No one had officially claimed responsibility for the explosions at Latakia, in Syria's north.

Israel's government has also declined to comment on the allegations.

In a statement released the previous Friday, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that "huge explosions shook the area where a large Syrian army base and weapons depots are located."

According to reports that have reached the rights group, fighter jets were seen in the skies in the area of the city of Al-Haffah, east of Latakia. It was further reported that several troops have been killed and wounded in the explosions. Fires broke out in the region.

If the report is proven to be true, this would be the fourth Israeli strike in Syria in six months. In January, Israel struck a convoy carrying weapons evidently meant for Hezbollah while it had stopped at a Syrian research center on the outskirts of Damascus. Israel attacked twice more, over the course of one weekend in May, targeting a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles at the Damascus international airport.

Also according to CNN, the United States believes some supplies, including ammunition and small arms, have been unloaded in recent weeks at the Syrian port. Evidently, heavy weapons or helicopters that the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad anticipates have not been delivered so far.

The Yakhont is an anti-ship missile that has a range of 300 kilometers and can carry a warhead weighing 250 kilograms. Russia has supplied Syria with such missile battrries in 2011.

This past May, The New York Times cited U.S. officials as saying that Russia has recently sent a new shipment of upgraded Yakhont missiles to Syria. The new version is outfitted with an advanced radar that makes it more effective, according to the report.

Yakhont missiles pose a threat to maritime transport arriving in and departing from Israel, as well as vital infrastructure located near the country's coast, including gas reservoirs and the power station in Hadera.

A Yakhont missile. Credit: Haaretz Archive
A Google map image showing where the blasts were reportedly heard. Credit: Google Maps

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