Published time: July 15, 2013 04:00 Edited time: July 15, 2013 13:00
Israel used a Turkish military base to launch one of its recent airstrikes against Syria from the sea, a reliable source told RT. Israel has been under scrutiny since last week, when it was reported to be responsible for a July 5 depot attack in Latakia.
News that Turkey assisted Israel in attacking another Muslim state could result in serious turmoil for Ankara, once the information is confirmed.
“Our source is telling us that Israeli planes left a military base inside Turkey and approached Latakia from the sea to make sure that they stayed out of Syrian airspace so that they cannot become a legitimate target for the Syrian air force,” RT’s Paula Slier reports.
In response, Turkey has denied that Israel has used its base to strike Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the media that existing reports of the incident are “absolutely wrong” and those who spread such rumors are in “act of betrayal.”
“Turkey will neither be a part nor a partner of such ‘attacks.’ The ones who claim this want to damage Turkey’s power and reputation,” he added.
Responding to RT’s request for comment, the Turkish embassy in Moscow has said: “We officially inform that this allegation is definitely not true.”
Israel has also declined to comment to RT and refused to confirm or deny the information.
The Israeli PM’s office told RT that they “will not be taking part in your broadcast,” while an IDF spokesperson renewed the stance that the military is “not commenting on this issue.”
Relations between Turkey and Israel were strained until March 2013, as a result of a flotilla incident which happened more than three years ago. In protest against Israel’s refusal to apologize, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and severed military ties.
The two agreed to normalize their relationship after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ankara has been known for its assistance to foreign-backed militants, allowing them to train on Turkish territory before infiltrating into Syria.
Shortly after the July 5 airstrike, the Free Syrian Army said that rebels were not responsible for the attack, which destroyed Yakhont anti-ship missiles being stored there.
“It was not the FSA that targeted this,” Qassem Saadeddine, FSA’s Supreme Military Council spokesman told Reuters. “It is not an attack that was carried out by rebels.”
The FSA suggested the attack “was either by air raid or long-range missiles fired from boats in the Mediterranean.”
Rebels described massive blasts, saying that the firepower exceeded the capability of weapons available to the opposition. They speculated that the attack was launched with the use of modern military weapons, like those which may be possessed by Israel.
On Saturday, US officials speaking on condition of anonymity also revealed Israel’s involvement with the explosions. They did not provide details on the extent of the damage or the number of missiles struck.
At the same time, Britain’s Sunday Times cited its Middle East intelligence sources who reported that a contingent of 50 Russian-made Yakhont P-800 anti-ship missiles were targeted and destroyed. However, the newspaper claimed that Israeli submarines carried out the attack rather than the Air Force.
Netanyahu hesitated to comment on reports when speaking to CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“My policy is to prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and other terror groups as well. And we stand by that policy,” the PM said. “And I’m not in the habit of saying what we did or didn’t do,” he added.
If the recent airstrikes are proven to have been carried out by Israel, the July 5 strike will be the fourth known Israeli air attack against targets in Syria this year. The previous three attacks targeted an area near Damascus on January 30, May 3, and May 5.
In late January, an airstrike hit a weapons convoy that carried Russian-made SA-17 surface-to-air missiles, marking the first incursion by Israel into Syrian airspace in six years.
In May, Israeli warplanes conducted two days of airstrikes, targeting a shipment from Iran of Fateh-110 missiles. Such missiles have the capability to strike Tel Aviv from southern Lebanon.
Middle East expert and historian, Tariq Ali told RT that Israel continues to attack Syria to get square with Hezbollah.
“Hezbollah is like a red [rag to a] bull to Israelis and Israelis haven’t been able to wipe it out, though they tried many times. Now they are hoping they can do it by weakening or completely destroying the Syrian regime. Indirectly they are providing help to the rebels,” Ali said. “Israel is a country that considers itself above the law.”