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Syrian opposition: Israeli jets bomb missile launchers in Latakia
By Ariel Ben Solomon,JPOST.COM STAFF
01/27/2014
Syrian army official denies reports there had been explosions in the Sheikh Dahar neighborhood; J'lem, Damascus remain silent.
 
Israeli fighter planes bombarded S-300 missile launchers in the Syrian port city of Latakia late Sunday, Syrian opposition groups were quoted as saying by Israel's Channel 2 television. Residents of the city reported hearing loud explosions just around midnight.

Opposition sources are quoted as saying that the explosion took place in the Sheikh Dahar neighborhood just near the local port, Channel 2 reported. The claims by the opposition have not been confirmed by any official sources.

An army official in Latakia denied that there had been any explosion in the Sheikh Dahar neighborhoods of Latakia.

"If detonated, S-300 missiles cause a massive explosion," the army official told Syrian website Damas Post.

The chatter of the alleged strike does not extend beyond the pages of social networks, he added.

Damascus has neither confirmed nor denied the alleged strike.

Israel has on numerous occasions been fingered as responsible  for attacks on Syrian military targets during the two-year long uprising against the Assad regime.

The claims of an Israeli strike in Syria coincided with reports that IAF jets breached the sound barrier at medium altitude over the city of Baalbek, located in the Hezbollah stronghold of the Bekaa Valley. The flights caused panic among the residents, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) reported Monday morning.

"On Sunday at 10:45 p.m., two Israeli war planes violated Lebanese airspace off west Batroun [district in north Lebanon], executed circular flight over the Lebanese regions; and then left at 11:55 p.m. off west Nakoura village [in the south,]" the Lebanese Army Command Guidance Directorate said in a statement according to Lebanon's National News Agency.

Despite opposition claims, it is unclear if Syria has even acquired the S-300 system. Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed in September that the delivery was suspended, even though some components had been delivered.

"We have delivered separate components but the whole delivery has not been completed and for the moment we have suspended it," Putin said according to AFP.

A military source told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the components were not enough to use the S-300 missile system, AFP reported.

Edward Hunt, an aerospace and defense consultant for HIS Janes in London, told The Jerusalem Post back in August that it is believed that the S-300 system was not yet delivered.

Syria possesses a mixed range of surface to air anti-aircraft weapons, “some old and some quite new, like the SA-10, SA- 11, SA-19 and SA-22.”

“It is not clear how effective they would be when facing well-trained and equipped US, British [and] French pilots using stand-off weapons,” said Hunt. “In the absence of the S- 300 long-range SAMs that Russia seems not to have delivered, that’s probably the best they have outside of unconventional methods.”

In October, a US official said that Israel conducted air raids against a Syrian missile base near Latakia.
The official, speaking to CNN, said Israel targeted missiles and related equipment out of concern that they would be transferred to Hezbollah.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collates reports from opposition activists, said there had been an explosion at a Syrian air defense base near Jableh, in the Mediterranean coastal province of Latakia. The Latakia area is an Alawite and regime stronghold.

Israel has repeatedly warned that it is prepared to use force to prevent advanced weapons, particularly from Iran, reaching Hezbollah through Syria. According to foreign reports, Israel reportedly carried out several air strikes on Syria earlier this year.

In September, Israel was believed responsible for an attack on an arms depot in Latakia that killed between 10 and 20 Syrian troops. The Israeli government has consistently denied involvement in the Syrian civil war.

“For a long time we have continued to say that we are not involving ourselves in the bloody civil war in Syria," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said this past fall. "We have established our red lines and we are sticking to them.”

Yasser Okbi contributed to this report.

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