BEIRUT: Satellite imagery showed widespread destruction at a giant military facility in western Syria targeted in a recent Israeli airstrike, and the head of a Syrian opposition war monitor said Sunday the strike targeted a depot housing hundreds of middle-range missiles for Iran-backed fighters.
Syrian state media reported after the Thursday night attack near the cities of Tartus and Hama that two people were wounded and fires were sparked in nearby forests. It added that the missiles were fired from over the Mediterranean and most of them were shot down.
Syrian opposition activists at the time said the strike targeted an arms depot and a scientific research center near the central town of Masyaf, a government stronghold. Masyaf is almost half way between the coastal city of Tartus and the central city of Hama.
The Times of Israel on Sunday published images taken by Planet Labs PBC and provided by Aurora Intel, a network that provides news and updates based on open-source intelligence.
Aurora Intel tweeted that initial analysis of satellite imagery showed that some buildings and areas sustained heavy damage from the reported airstrikes. It added that areas around the Scientific Studies and Research Center sustained “heavy fire damage due to the secondary explosions.”
The imagery showed that part of the green areas surrounding the facility had been burned.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based opposition war monitor known as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the Israelis struck several positions but the main target hit was a giant arms depot housing about 1,000 precision-guided middle-range missiles. He said the explosions at the facility lasted for more than five hours after the strike.
Abdurrahman added that an underground facility to develop missiles in the area under the supervision of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard was not affected by the strikes, probably because it was dug deep in the mountains. He said the strike left one Syrian army captain dead and 14 other Syrians wounded.
“The explosions were among the largest since Israel began carrying out airstrikes in Syria,” he said.
There was no official comment from Israel’s military.
Israel has made hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria over the past decade of its civil war, but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
It has, however, acknowledged that it targets bases of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s allies, including Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and other Iran-backed militias. Israeli military officials have said in the past that the strikes are against Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, the top US Air Force officer in the Middle East, said he was “certainly aware” of reports that Israel targeted an arms depot in Syria in recent days but stressed there was “no connection” between that attack and the US airstrikes that hit Iran-linked targets in Syria last week.
He said that the recent actions that the US military took “are entirely disconnected from any other actors, whether the Israelis or anyone else.”
On the tit-for-tat attacks that raised tensions between the US and Iran-backed militias in Syria last week, Grynkewich said he hoped “things have de-escalated and now we’ve reached a point where deterrence is once again established.”