JERUSALEM — There has been no comment by the Israeli government regarding reports that its military struck a missile storehouse in Syria late Wednesday or early Thursday.
An unnamed White House official confirmed to CNN that Israel had attacked the cache at a military base near the northern Syrian port city of Latakia before dawn on Thursday. The Dubai-based Al Arabiya television network cited Lebanese sources saying Israel struck twice during the night, with a sea-launched assault aimed at the Latakia base and a second, undefined strike near Damascus.
The US official who spoke to CNN said the targeted missiles were Russian-made, believed by Israel to be destined for Hezbollah, the militant group that has engaged in numerous conflicts with Israel in the past 25 years and that is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most active supporters.
Though Israel has declined to address reports of its military striking Syria during the civil war, it has allegedly struck six times in the past year in order to prevent missiles and equipment from being transferred to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.
From the beginning of the Syrian civil war, now approaching the end of its third year, Israel has maintained a position of non-intervention — except to prevent Syria's massive stock of long-range and portable anti-aircraft missiles from reaching Hezbollah.
It seems to be keeping its word. Unlike the West, which has failed to articulate a clear policy to change the grinding course of the Syrian conflict, Israel has stuck to its own "red line," allegedly attacking several warehouses and convoys containing missiles.
According to Reuters, a Syrian opposition source with intelligence contacts inside Syria confirmed the latest attack. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a Syrian news outlet both reported a strike on Latakia Thursday, according to Ynetnews. A Syrian security official, however, denied that Israel had struck anywhere within the country's borders.
"We in Latakia did not hear any blast. The media outlets that are the source of these reports may have dubious intentions that serve the interests of the enemies," Amar al-Assad said in an interview with Arabic-language Russia Al-Youm, according to Ynetnews.
Syria would be unlikely to publicize any intervention on the part of its neighbor to the south, however; its interest is to defend the reputation of its advanced defense alert system.
As the US official's declaration made the rounds in Jerusalem on Friday, some questioned the alleged leaker's motivation.
Amir Mizrich, managing editor of the Israeli daily Israel HaYom, tweeted, "The US leak of Israeli strike in Syria is third time this has happened. Someone there doesn’t like us early in the day." But he then appeared to reconsider, adding: "Truth is, both US and Israeli officials constantly talk up intel and military cooperation. so hard 2 believe this 'leak' came as surprise."
Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York, agreed on Friday that Israeli officials are likely on board with the leak. He estimated a "90 percent" possibility that Israel, while maintaining a public wall of silence, was happy to have an American official confirm its action in Syria.