Various foreign media outlets reported over the weekend that Israel was behind the mysterious July 5 explosions at a Syrian arms depot in the port city of Latakia, but provided conflicting details.
CNN reported on Saturday that the Israel Air Force had targeted the Syrian weapons storage facility from the air, while The Sunday Times reported that Israel had attacked the site from the sea using the Israel Navy's Dolphin-class submarine.
The facility, which was reportedly destroyed entirely, housed Russian-made Yakhont missiles among other weapons. According to CNN, Israel fears that these anti-ship cruise missiles would jeopardize its naval forces. If true, the strike near Latakia, first reported by CNN, was the fourth known Israeli air attack against targets in Syria this year. According to reports, all four strikes had targeted advanced weapons provided by Russia to Syria.
Israeli officials declined to comment on the reports. U.S. officials likewise refrained from making any public comment. Israel maintains it is not involved in Syria's two-year civil war except to stop weapons transfers.
CNN cited three American officials as confirming that Israeli jets had perpetrated the July 5 attack. The Arabic-language Iranian satellite network Al-Alam, owned by the state-owned media corporation Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, quoted high-ranking Syrian officials as denying the CNN report.
Many Syrian media outlets reported extensively on the initial attack, and many speculations were made, but no official claim of responsibility has been made.
CNN reported further that the U.S. and Israel were closely monitoring the region due to the likelihood that additional Russian weapons would be transferred from Russian warships into Syria at other points along the coast. U.S. officials believe, CNN reported, that several Russian shipments have already made their way to Syrian President Bashar Assad's army in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti paper Al-Seyassah reported over the weekend that Iraq declared that it couldn't stop the supply of weapons by air from Iran to Assad's supporters. The paper also said that Tehran has complied with a Hezbollah request and will send 2,000 additional Revolutionary Guards soldiers to help the Shiite forces in Syria.
In Syria, meanwhile, the civil war took on a different turn as a senior commander of the Free Syrian Army was murdered by anti-Assad jihadis over the weekend, and in Aleppo clashes erupted between moderate rebels and extremists belonging to the Nusra Front. The slain commander, Kamal Hamami, was part of a group of officers who defected from the Syrian army to join the rebels when the uprising began over two years ago. This group initially sought to cooperate with Israel once Assad was removed from power.
A Free Syrian Army spokesman reported that Hamami, also known as Abu Basir, had set up a meeting with representatives of the Nusra Front, who ambushed and murdered him.
"Our respond to the murder of Abu Basir will be tough. We will wipe the floor with his killers," the spokesman said. "Extremist mercenaries who have infiltrated Syria are even more dangerous than Assad, and we will fight them to the death."
Meanwhile, in a particularly harsh editorial, The Washington Post criticized U.S. President Barack Obama's conduct in the face of the Syria crisis. Titled "Obama's feckless Syria policy is likely to fail," the editorial argued that the problem was not the stalled weapons deliveries but rather "an extraordinary failure of leadership by Mr. Obama."
Obama's feebleness on the Syrian issue is confusing and worrying important American allies including Turkey and Israel, who are wondering whether they can still rely on the U.S. to serve as an influential power in the region, the editorial said.