Explosions rock Latakia hours after Russia-Turkey agree on Idlib buffer

A Syrian military official told the Syrian Arab News Agency that missiles were fired from the Mediterranean sea towards the port city, but were intercepted and downed by air defense.

By REUTERS,
September 17, 2018 23:02
3 minute read.
Explosions rock Latakia hours after Russia-Turkey agree on Idlib buffer

Missile fire is seen from Damascus, Syria. (photo credit: OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS)

 
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Syrian media reported several explosions were heard over the city of Latakia on Monday night, Israeli media reported.

A Syrian military official told the Syrian Arab News Agency that missiles were fired from the
Mediterranean sea towards the port city, but were intercepted and downed by air defense.

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Several unconfirmed sources quoted Syrian military official accusing Israel for the attack.

Images on Syrian television showed glowing fires from the aftermath of an explosion near Latakia city.

Latakia is home to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s family and also an area intensely loyal to the government. Russia’s air base at Khmeimim and the Russian naval facility at Tartus are also in Latakia governorate.
This may suggest that if the Israelis were the true source of the explosions, Russian-Israeli coordination may have been involved.

Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015. Officials from Israel and Russia meet regularly to discuss the deconfliction mechanism implemented over Syria to coordinate their actions in order to avoid accidental clashes in Syrian airspace.

Hours earlier, Israel released satellite images of strategic sites in Syria, including the Damascus airport and the Presidential Palace

Zaid Benjamin, a journalist focused on the Middle East , tweeted that the explosions took place at the Technical Industries Corporation. Syran air defenses have been activated recently by the regime against what it says are Israeli attacks. On September 15, Syria said Damascus International Airport was targeted. Videos also showed lights in the sky over Latakia’s countryside that appeared to be either missiles or air defenses operating.

The incident comes just hours after Russia and Turkey indicated a buffer zone had been agreed on in Idlib province, that would prevent a major Syrian regime offensive. In recent weeks, there has been increased tension as Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies seek to retake Idlib province from Syrian rebels whom the regime and Russia refer to as terrorists. Turkey has warned such an operation would result in waves of refugees and civilian casualties. Idlib is one of the only areas of Syria still held by rebels, who first began fighting the government in 2011. Russia has accused the extremist groups in Idlib of preparing a “false flag” chemical weapons attack while the US has warned the regime against using chemical weapons. The buffer zone agreed on would prevent an offensive.

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Al-Mayadeen media, which generally is sympathetic to the Syrian regime, reported that Syrian air defense had intercepted missiles over Latakia. Leith Abou Fadel, founder of Al-Masdar news, tweeted that missiles struck Hama countryside and near Baniyas, while reporting that drones were involved in the attack. But he wrote that people in Latakia took the explosions in stride. “Lol, people in Latakia are something else. People are still driving their cars, walking around, and smoking nargileh [waterpipe] on their balconies.”

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.


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