Shortly after 1am local time Israeli warplanes mounted a large-scale missile strike on Syria's key port of Latakia, igniting large fires as shipping containers were engulfed.
International reports underscored that "It was a rare attack on the city's port, a vital facility where much of Syria's imports are brought into the war-torn country." Indeed it was the first such known attack on Latakia's main port throughout the conflict which began over a decade ago.
Syrian state TV said at least five explosions were heard, with circulating social media videos from the site showing high-reaching flames.
The Israeli government didn't comment in the immediate aftermath, but its media is calling the attack a "gamechanger" in terms of drastically shifting the rules of engagement towards civilian ports. Over the course of prior years, Damascus International Airport has been struck several times. Typically the Israelis claim to be acting against Iranian weapons shipments.
Regional Al-Mayadeen media described that "A military source said in a statement to SANA that at around 1.32 a.m. today, the Israeli enemy carried out an air attack with several missiles from the direction of the Mediterranean, southwest of Latakia, targeting the container yard in the commercial port of Latakia."
URGENT: #SyriaUnderAttack Israeli Warplanes Just Bombarded The Civilian Port Of Latakia, West Syria.— Robert Inlakesh (@falasteen47) December 7, 2021
This was completely unprovoked !
Although Israel launches strikes routinely against Syria, this is unprecedented.
Where’s the condemnation? Will the Western media cover it? pic.twitter.com/Fx149zH3ds
Both Syrian and Russian anti-air defenses are stationed in this northwest coastal province, but it doesn't appear they were activated. Syrian state sources are suggesting Syrian air defenses may have repelled some of the Israeli missiles, however.
Al-Mayadeen noted further:
...the Russians at Khmeimim airbase nearby had “announced that [they] had monitored ten bombing attacks by Jabhat al-Nusra elements in the Idlib region of the de-escalation zones in the northwest of the country.”
Despite literally hundreds of Israeli attacks on Syria since the war's beginning, it's rare for such an assault to come so close to Russia's Khmeimim airbase (also spelled Hmeymim). It's as yet unclear Moscow's reaction to the attack.
#Syria's state media has said #Israeli warplanes have attacked its #Latakia port, with several missiles striking the area of the containers at 1:23 local time on Tuesday (23:23 GMT Monday), starting a fire.— Ruptly (@Ruptly) December 7, 2021
There has been no comment from the Israeli military thus far. pic.twitter.com/wWBazX62hG
Though there's not confirmation of this, Middle East Eye is citing Syrian opposition media to say Israel targeted shipments of weapons that were bound for Iranian troops in Syria:
An Israeli air strike hit a shipment of Iranian weapons in the Syrian port of Latakia on Tuesday, in the first such attack on the key facility, according to a UK-based activist group.
The Israeli raid "directly targeted an Iranian weapons shipment in the container yard," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Already there's speculation that the aggressive action is tied to Iran nuclear talks in Vienna. Israeli defense and intelligence leaders are currently in Washington attempting to persuade the Biden administration to act militarily against Iranian assets in the region, sending a strong "message" against the Islamic Republic's alleged nuclear ambitions.