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Massive Israeli airstrikes on Latakia, Syria

Massive Israeli airstrikes on Latakia, Syria

Latakia: December 28, 2021: Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator reporting at the scene.

The Israeli air force struck the port at Latakia at 3:21 am. today.  This was the second Israeli attack this month at the main commercial port of Syria on the Mediterranean Sea.  The attack today was massive, which inflicted heavy damage to the port infrastructure as well as massive loss of cargo containers full of civilian imports such as: cotton threads used in fabric factories of Aleppo, car tires, automobile parts, baby milk for pharmacies and many other commercial cargoes for civilian use.

The fire raged for hours and the thick clouds of black smoke are billowing still at 4:00 pm.  No civilian deaths are reported so far, but fire fighters suffered smoke inhalation, and residents in their homes nearby suffered mild to moderate injuries from flying window glass in their homes.  The private hospital opposite the port, Nada Hospital, suffered broken window glass along their front façade. Restaurants and cafes along the Western Corniche have suffered glass damages in one the finest residential areas in Latakia opposite the port.

On December 7, the port at Latakia was attacked by Israeli missiles fired from the Mediterranean Sea at about 1:00 am.  The Syrian air defenses reacted to the strike which produced five large explosions which rocked the nearby residential neighborhoods, with some residents reporting broken windows in the bitterly cold night.

Dozens of shipping containers were destroyed and damaged.  Photos from the scene show packages of coffee scattered among the debris, as evidence of commercial food, having been destroyed.  The port is used by private businesses to import medicines, food products, and supplies for Syrian residents who are suffering from devastating US-EU sanctions which prevent importing materials for rebuilding after 10 years of armed conflict. 

 The food products destroyed in the attack were imported by private businesses.  These merchants are now faced with financial ruin.  Many such merchants have left the country, but the ones who have stayed have suffered greatly from the US-EU sanctions which prevent the transfer of money from Syria to pay for shipments. These merchants have provided vital supplies for the Syrian public.  The Israeli attack on the shipping containers may cause merchants to give up ordering the supplies the residents need, such as medicines and food, for fear of loss of the cargo to an attack.  This may be part of a siege and blockade strategy on Israel’s part.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets inside Syria over the years, some of which have targeted the main airport in the capital Damascus.

Israel has acknowledged that it targets the bases of Iran-allied groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah that has fighters deployed in Syria. It says it attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for the groups.

Israel says Iranian presence on its northern frontier is a red line, justifying its strikes on facilities and weapons inside Syria. However, it was Iranian- backed soldiers who have fought to eradicate ISIS and Al Qaeda from Syria in coordination with the Syrian and Russian military. 

In two separate Israeli attacks in October, five pro-Iranian militiamen were killed near the Syrian capital Damascus, while nine Syrian soldiers were killed near the T4 airbase east of Palmyra in central Syria, a UK-based rights group said.

On November 3, Israel launched an aerial attack with several missiles targeting an area on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

On November 24, Israeli missile attacks in the west of Homs province killed five people, including civilians, and wounded seven in what was the fourth Israeli attack in the month.

Israel attacked the city of Latakia in 2018, when an Israeli jet-firing missiles hid behind a Russian military plane, in a maneuver called “shadowing.”  Because of this tactic, a Russian plane carrying Russian soldiers was shot down with a great loss of life, which caused serious tensions between Israel and Russia. Israel has also carried out raids against targets in Latakia in 2014 and twice in 2013.

Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist