BEIRUT – Israeli warplanes attacked a shipment of Russian missiles inside a Syrian government stronghold, officials said Thursday, a development that threatened to add another volatile layer to regional tensions from the Syrian civil war.
An Obama administration official confirmed the Israeli airstrike, but provided no details. Another security official said the attack occurred late Wednesday in the Syrian port city of Latakia and that the target was Russian-made SA-125 missiles.
There was no immediate confirmation from Syria.
Since the civil war in Syria began in March 2011, Israel has carefully avoided taking sides, but has struck shipments of missiles inside Syria at least twice this year.
The Syrian military, overstretched by the civil war, has not retaliated, and it was not clear whether President Bashar Assad would choose to take action this time. The embattled Syrian leader may decide to again let the Israeli attack slide, particularly when his army has the upper hand on the battlefield inside Syria.
Israel has repeatedly declared a series of red lines that could trigger Israeli military intervention, including the delivery of “game-changing” weapons to the Syrian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group.
Israel has never officially confirmed taking action inside Syria to avoid embarrassing Assad and sparking a potential response. But foreign officials say it has done so several times when Israeli intelligence determined that sophisticated missiles were on the move.
In January, an Israeli airstrike in Syria destroyed a shipment of advanced anti-aircraft missiles bound for Hezbollah, according to U.S. officials. And in May, it was said to have acted again, taking out a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles at a Damascus airport.