JERUSALEM – Satellite photos have confirmed that a target attacked two weeks ago near the Syrian port of Latakia was a battery of advanced anti-aircraft missiles, according to the Israeli magazine, Israel Defense.
The battery was in the process of upgrading that would have made it “a substantial threat” to Israeli warplanes in the area, the magazine reported.
After several air attacks near Damascus earlier this year, mainly on advanced weapons said to be destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syrian president Bashar Assad warned that any future attack on Syrian territory, whether by Israel or any other state, would draw an immediate missile attack on Israel.
Despite that threat, an American official told CNN last week that the Latakia raid had been carried out by Israel. He said that the Israelis were concerned that the missiles that were hit would be transferred to Hezbollah.
As with the earlier attacks, Israeli officials refused to comment. However, Jerusalem has warned that it would use force if necessary to prevent advanced weapons from reaching the Lebanese militia.
The Israel Defense article said that satellite photos taken hours before the attack showed that the target was a base housing Soviet-made S-125 missile launchers that were being upgraded. According to the magazine, the photos were made by an American company that offers satellite services to the American defense establishment.
Israel Defense reported the company usually focuses its activity on other parts of the Middle East with emphasis on the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda. “It is possible,” said the article, “that the reason for the photographs was a warning provided by Israel to the US shortly before the attack.”
Although the attacks in Syria earlier this year were carried out against warehouses and convoys reportedly involved in shipping weapons to Lebanon, the Latakia attack was on an operational Syrian air-defense base. According to Syrian opposition forces, the base was hit by missiles fired from the sea.