An Israeli military source waxed exceptionally informative Wednesday, July 10 when he revealed that Hizballah was gathering intelligence on the Israeli military deployment on the strategic Golan, which is split between Israel and Syria.
“It is not at an alarming level now, but we understand their intentions," said the source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the security and political situation in the area.
The IDF military spokesman then actually confirmed debkafile’s reports of a Hizballah military buildup on the Syrian Golan, and disclosed that Israel had responded by bolstering its military positions in the enclave.
The Israeli officers’ chattiness ties in, according to DEBKA Weekly, with four unusual events this week:
1. The mysterious explosions which hit the big Syrian arms depot in Latakia, the capital of the Alawite coastal region of western Syria, early Friday morning July 5.
The depot had three sections:
One consisted of weapons piled up in the last two months for the forthcoming major offensive by the Syrian and Hizballah armies to capture Syria's largest city, Aleppo. Most were items delivered by the Russian air cargo flights touching down daily at Syria’s military airports.
Moscow knows Syria shares its advanced Russian weapons with Hizballah
The second contained P-800 Oniks anti-ship missiles (NATO codenamed SS-N-26), also known as Yakhonts, which are Russian-made supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.
In May 2013, Moscow sent over the advanced radar for upgrading the Yakhonts’ effectiveness against foreign attack.
The explosions wiped out both the missiles and the advanced radar.
The third section held the Syrian army’s strategic reserve of missiles and ammunition, stored there for an emergency, such a possible forced Syrian army retreat to the Alawite region – or even Lebanon.
This too was destroyed.
An important point about the Russian arms deliveries is that even after discovering that some of the weapons are transferred to the Lebanese Hizballah, Moscow has no compunctions about continuing supplies or even expanding them.
So Moscow has consciously laid itself open to the charge of supplying arms to the Hizballah terrorist organization.
2. Neither Syrian radar nor that of the Russian warships cruising off the Syria coast registered incoming aircraft or missiles heading for the Latakia depot.
They were therefore unable to identify the source of the explosions, which explains the wildly conflicting reports which followed.
A welter of conflicting theories
A Syrian official Sunday, July 7, held Al-Qaeda responsible; then another Syrian official in Damascus contradicted the Arab media pinning the attack on Israel.
“The attack in Latakia was not carried out from the air or the sea, but by a terrorist group aligned with al-Qaeda," another senior Syrian official told Syrian state media. "The group fired missiles of European design that caused large fires in the bases."
Hizballah's Al-Manar TV channel kept to the Syrian official line of ruling Israel out, while putting the blame on Syrian rebels. They were accused of firing at least three missiles at the Latakia depot and causing heavy damage.
Most of these statements deliberately laid false trails in the hope of putting those responsible off guard and giving the game away. The only accurate point was that missiles were the cause of the explosions.
Friday, shortly after the attack on Friday, debkafile's military sources reported that the arms depots were hit by rockets launched from afar. The accuracy of the strikes suggested they were fired from outside Syria, since none of the sides in the Syrian war possesses weapons as advanced as those used to blow up the arms depots.
It is possible that they were fired from out at the sea.
The arsenal for the Aleppo attack was wiped out
3. Next came agitated consultations among the Russian, Iranian, Syria and Lebanese Hizballah allies over whether to stage an immediate military retaliation. One thing was sure: the big assault on Aleppo would have to be postponed because weeks, if not months, were needed to restock the demolished arsenals set in for that assault.
Meanwhile, Moscow sought to pin the blame on Israel, while also accusing Syrian rebels of using chemical weapons in battle. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that a Russian team of experts had collected proof of this charge.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday: “We have yet to see any evidence that backs up the assertion that anybody besides the Syrian government has had the ability to use chemical weapons or has used chemical weapons."
As accusations and counter-accusations flew back and forth between Washington and Moscow, DEBKA Weekly's intelligence and Moscow sources report that the Russians told the Assad regime to find proof of Israeli culpability in the Latakia attack.
Damascus was stumped. So the Russians said they would send another team of military experts to examine the scene of the Latakia explosions, collect any data, fragments or shrapnel found at the scene, analyze the evidence and then decide how to proceed.
Israel warned Putin: Advanced Russian weapons would be destroyed
However, the task facing an on-the-scene investigation is no cakewalk. Our military sources say the blasts must have strewn thousands of Yakhont missile fragments over a broad area of several square kilometers. Picking out foreign missile fragments would be looking for a needle in a haystack.
Not a word has been heard from any Israel official source on the Latakia attack – in contrast to the Israeli Air Force raids of May 5 on Mt. Qaysoun and Damascus Airport which demolished an Iranian-Hizballah arms depots in that sector.
The Americans too are in no hurry this time to share any knowledge with the media or name Israel as responsible for blowing up the arms depots – for two reasons:
– In their rough, acerbic encounter at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 14, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned President Vladimir Putin that if Russia sends advanced weaponry to Syria, such as S-300 anti-aircraft missiles or sophisticated radar for upgrading the Yakhont missiles, Israel would destroy them. Putin retorted that if Israel did this, Moscow would hit back.
– After Israel’s air strikes over Damascus of May 5, Syrian President Bashar Assad said repeatedly, as did Hizballah and Iranian officials, that another Israeli attack on Syria would elicit an immediate Syrian reprisal.
Has Netanyahu dropped his do-nothing posture?
The theme running through all the Syrian and Hizballah warnings was a threat to open a new warfront against Israel from the Golan. And so, five days after the Syrian arms depots were blasted by a mysterious hand, the IDF announced the deployment of extra Israeli forces on the Golan.
4. Four days after Latakia, a car bomb blew up Tuesday, July 9, at Hizballah’s office building in the Bir al-Abd quarter of South Beirut. A next-door Shiite mosque and a technical school were also hit. At least 53 people were injured.
Hizballah did not admit that the targeted office building housed the intelligence and communications centers for its combat operations in Syria.
When no organization took responsibility for the attack, Beirut and Tehran immediately pounced on Israeli intelligence as the culprit.
DEBKA Weekly's military sources suggest that these events indicate that Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided to finally abandon his do-nothing, stay-out-of-it posture and may have embarked on two secret wars in step with Egypt and Saudi Arabia (See the detailed outline of this re-orientation in a separate article in this issue), rather than the US under the Obama administration.
One undercover campaign is going forward in partnership with Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood; the other against Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Syria’s Assad, who are kept going by Russia and Iran.
Jerusalem like Riyadh appears to be on the move.