US officials: Israel is responsible for Syrian missile depot attack

Anonymous American officials tell CNN the IAF targeted Yakhont anti-ship missiles in Latakia on July 5.

Smoke rises in Latakia 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Smoke rises in Latakia 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel carried out a July 5 early morning air strike in Syria, anonymous US officials told CNN on Friday.
The attack on Latakia, for which there was no claim of responsibility, was the work of the Israel Air Force, the officials said.
Three unnamed US officials told CNN the IAF had targeted Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles that could pose a threat to Israel.
Qassem Saadeddine, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, said the pre-dawn attack hit Syrian Navy barracks at Safira, near the port of Latakia. The rebel forces’ intelligence network had identified newly supplied Yakhont missiles being stored there, he said.
“It was not the FSA that targeted this,” Saadeddine told Reuters. “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.”
Meanwhile, more than a month after the White House announced plans to provide light arms to Syria’s opposition forces in their fight against President Bashar Assad, no shipments have been dispatched, frustrating the Obama administration as it awaits approval from a skeptical Congress.
The intelligence committees in both the House and Senate are required to sign off on a release of funding for such an operation. But in a rare case of bipartisanship, neither party nor chamber committee appears willing to do so after President Barack Obama presented his plans to sitting members.
Sources speaking to The Jerusalem Post cited a prevailing worry that the administration does not have a strategy thorough enough to prevent the transfer of such weapons to al-Qaida or its affiliates.
For a covert operation to go forward, the president must send a “finding” to the intelligence committees in which he explains the rationale for his plan and requests an appropriation of money for the project.
While it’s possible for an operation to proceed without approval from Congress, the Central Intelligence Agency risks having to pay the cost of the operation from somewhere in its existing budget if Congress fails to approve of it.
Such consensus for delay in the intelligence committees, as there is today on Syria, is an extremely rare occurrence, says Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution.
“It’s very unusual, and very unusual for there to be this much resistance coming from both sides of the aisle, both Republicans and Democrats,” Riedel told the Post. “The sense on the Hill is that the administration doesn’t have a coherent program or mission, and it doesn’t have a mechanism to ensure that weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
Click for full JPost coverage
Click for full JPost coverage
For the delivery of arms and ammunition to begin, Riedel says, “the administration needs to come back to the Congress with a new plan that the committees feel comfortable with.”
That may take several weeks more, Riedel says, when these transactions often take two weeks or less under such pressing circumstances.
Administration officials have voiced aggravation that many of the same elected officials who have publicly called on the White House to more aggressively back the rebels are now privately stalling the process.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and CIA director John Brennan have reached out to those wavering intelligence committee members to reassure them on the submitted finding, Reuters reported this week, with little success.
In response to rumors that the July 5 air strike could have been carried out by the IDF, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Tuesday that Israel will continue to stand on the sidelines of Syria’s civil war.
In an apparent reference to the strike – which killed between 10 and 20 Syrian military personnel – Ya’alon maintained: “For a long time we have continued to say that we are not involving ourselves in the bloody civil war in Syria. We have established our red lines and we are sticking to them.
“When there is an attack or explosion of some sort or another in the Middle East...
no matter what, we are blamed,” he said during a visit to Tze’elim army base in the Negev. “The Syrian civil war has also spread into Lebanon for some time.
Hezbollah has joined the fighting in Syria, and we see inside Lebanon – in Tripoli, Sidon and also in Beirut – reports like those today, of car bombs. This is largely a struggle between the Shi’ites and Sunnis... We are not involved in this.”
Reuters contributed to this report.