Latakia, Syria – Reports are beginning to surface of a precision strike in the coastal town of Syria on July 5th, where the Syrian government was believed to have a massive missile depot stationed. The weapons were believed to be anti-ship cruise missiles. Since Latakia is close to the Israeli border, sources are confirming anonymously that it was indeed the Israeli Army who carried out the attack. The missiles were reportedly sold to the Syrians by Russia, a long time ally and friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Since the surprise strike, news has also spread of a Russian response to the violence. Reports of roughly 160,000 Russian troops participating in the largest military exercise in the country since the fall of the Soviet Union have begun to take hold. 1,000 tanks, 130 aircraft, and 70 naval vessels are also reported to be in on the drill, ordered for unspecified reasons by Russian President Putin. When asked by a local Russian television station what the large scale force was in charge of doing, a tank commander in the Russian Army, Dmitry Manyukin, said, ”The peculiarity [of this drill] is that [although] we deployed here 24 hours … it hasn’t yet been disclosed to us where we will move from here and what we will be ordered to accomplish.”
The Kremlin was not shy about the order given by Putin. They released an official statement through their press office. ”Additionally, on order from the Russian president, the 6952nd air base of long-range aviation [at Ukrainka in the Amur Region] is switching to ’Full’ combat readiness from 5:00 p.m. Moscow time, July 13. Tu-95MS strategic bombers are preparing for combat mission flights,” according to the Moscow Times Sunday Edition. It comes as a shock to many international observers that strategic bombers are at the ready so close in time to the Syrian situation.
On CBS’s Face the Nation with Bob Scheifer Sunday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would neither confirm nor deny his country’s involvement in the attack on Syria, saying, “I’m not in the habit of saying what we did do or what we didn’t do. My policy is to prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hezbollah and other terror groups.” Rumors continue to persist of the massive tension between Israel and Washington since the election of President Obama.
The United States has come under intense scrutiny for the arming and supporting of the rebels in Syria, which some believe to be linked to terrorist groups as well. Just last week, a Syrian Catholic priest Francois Murad, was beheaded by the “freedom fighters” during an attempt to take back a parcel of land from the Syrian government. The Vatican has confirmed the story, saying, ”The Vatican is confirming the death by beheading of Franciscan Father, Francois Murad, who was martyred by Syrian jihadists on June 23.”
Amos Harel, the defense commentator for the Haaretz newspaper, said to the Wall Street Journal earlier today, ”In the coming days it will be clear whether Assad—whose entire effort is directed toward putting down the fierce uprising against him in Syria—will choose to continue to ignore [the attack] again, amid the assumption that being humiliated in the media is still preferable than a head-on dust up with Israel.”
It remains to be be seen why the Russians have begun the largest military exercise in the past three decades. With the war between the Syrian Government (supported by Iran and Hezzbollah) and the rebels (supposedly supported by remnants of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist factions) increasing in intensity and the US stumbling through it’s foreign policy to try to pick sides, it will be unknown how this all plays out. The Middle East has long been a powder keg of crude oil and dictatorships. Add some turmoil in Egypt and it won’t be long before Israel feels the need to fully join the party.
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