Syria blames Latakia port fires on Israel

Israel carried out an overnight air strike on the Syrian port of Latakia on Tuesday that sparked major blazes at a container storage area, Syrian state media reported citing a military source.

By Erin Viner

Five explosions rocked the city at at 1:23 AM after the Israeli “aggression” hit the port, said Syrian state television. Israeli missiles targeted the container storage area at the port, said the state run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), which published photos of flames and smoke billowing into the air, as well as a fire truck that had rushed to the scene.

The Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia is home to the main commercial harbor through which food and crucial supplies are delivered to the war-torn country. It is located just 20 km (12 miles) from the main Khmeimim Airbase operated by Russia, the strongest ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the decade-old Civil War.

Latakia Governor Ismail Hilal later said all of the fires had been extinguished by fighters, who were working to cool the site. Although it was clear material damage had been caused, neither the Syrian Armed Forces nor state media made any mention of casualties.

A source familiar with port operations told Reuters that it was the first time Israel had attacked the facility, which receives a considerable amount of cargo from Iran.

While an IDF spokesperson declined to comment on the reports, Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not allow Iran or its terrorist-proxies to entrench themselves in neighboring Syria for use as a launchpad to attack the Jewish State. The IDF has been known to mount frequent attacks against Iranian targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces – including the Lebanon-based Hezbollah – have deployed over the last decade in support of Assad’s regime forces against the insurgency.

Syrian state media reported 4 alleged IDF attacks last month, including a strike west of Homs Province that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said killed 5 combatants on 24 November. The London-based SOHR said that 5 other Iran-linked terrorists were killed in near Damascus and 9 pro-government fighters were killed near the T4 airbase in central Syria during separate attacks in October.

During a press conference this morning alongside visiting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commented, “We also recognize the threats in our complex region that are causes of joint concern: the concern for our climate, concern for the health and livelihoods of our people and the concern of our security in the face of terror.”

“We’re pushing back on the bad forces of this region, day and night. We won’t stop for one second,” said the Israeli leader, adding, “This happens almost daily. In the face of destructive forces, we will continue to act, we will be persistent, and we will not tire.”

“At the same time, we’re strengthening our relationships with our friends, on all levels,” he added.