Israel strikes the Syrian port of Latakia for the second time in a month

On 7 December, the Israeli army destroyed a shipment of Iranian weapons

AFP/ JACK GUEZ  -   Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft

Israeli air forces have attacked the Syrian port of Latakia, the Syrian news agency SANA has reported. "The Israeli enemy carried out an aerial aggression with several missiles from the Mediterranean against the container field of the port of Latakia," the state agency denounced. The Israeli army's attacks caused "extensive material damage" and several fires, SANA added. Al Ekhbariya television station also showed images of fire and smoke in the port. In addition, it reported damage to residential buildings, a hospital, several shops and some nearby tourist sites. 

According to Syrian media, the containers that came under attack contained "motor oil and spare parts for cars and other vehicles", while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based anti-Bashar al-Assad NGO, said they contained weapons and ammunition "probably from Iran".

bachar al asad
PHOTO/SANA - Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad

This is not the first time Israel has attacked the port of Latakia. A similar attack was carried out by the air force on 7 December. Containers with 'Iranian weapons and ammunition' were also targeted. In the aftermath, Israel's prime minister, Naphtali Bennet, said they were "pushing back the bad forces in the region day and night". "We will not stop for a second," he added. A journalist from Al Ekhbariya noted that the latest bombing "seemed to have been bigger", as explosions were heard in Tartus, a coastal city more than 80 kilometres away, reports Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel. 

Since the Syrian war began in 2011, Israel has targeted al-Assad government positions, Iranian-backed military groups and Hezbollah forces. However, Israel has long avoided attacking Latakia because of the large presence of Russian troops nearby, even though Iran allegedly uses the city's port to transport weapons. Moscow, al-Assad's most important ally, operates a military air base in Hmeimim, 20 kilometres from Latakia. According to Israeli media, Israeli air forces have carried out 'raids' against targets in the coastal city in 2013 and 2014.

AFP/ JACK GUEZ - Israeli soldiers stand near a self-propelled artillery vehicle in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the Syrian border.

The Israeli military has argued that these operations are aimed at curbing Tehran's influence in the region. The head of Israeli military intelligence, General Aharon Haliva, has accused Iran of 'continuing to promote subversion and terror' in the Middle East. According to an IDF report, some 50 attacks have been launched in 2020 in Syria for this purpose. The deadliest attack occurred last January, killing 57 Syrian soldiers. 

This attack comes shortly after the Israeli government announced a plan to increase the population of the Golan Heights, a region that belonged to Syria until 1967, when it became part of Israel after the Jewish victory in the Six-Day War. Iran has also recently launched missiles during a 'warning' drill against Israel. The Iranian military claimed that these manoeuvres were in response to Israeli 'threats'.