WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say Israel targeted advanced anti-ship cruise missiles near Syria's principal port city in an air attack carried out earlier this month, The New York Times reported.
The officials say the attack on July 5 near the city of Latakia targeted a type of Russian-made missile called the Yakhont that Russia had sold to the Syrian government, the Times reported on its website Saturday night. Russia is a key political ally and arms supplier of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
The officials didn't provide details on the strike, including the extent of the damage and how many missiles were used. The Times reported that the officials declined to be identified because they were discussing intelligence reports.
Israel maintains it's not involved in Syria's 2-year-old civil war except to stop weapons transfers. The strike near Latakia was the fourth known air strike in Syria by Israel this year, the newspaper reported.
The attack came to light after Syrian rebels said they were not behind the explosions in Latakia on July 5, according to the Times. Neither U.S. nor Israeli officials have commented publicly on the report.
Reports surfaced earlier this year that Russia had delivered an advanced version of its Yakhont anti-ship cruise missile to Assad's regime even though Russia had stated that it was committed to peace talks. Those reports prompted the U.S. to complain in May about an "ill-timed" step by Russia.
Such weapons would help to upgrade significantly Syria's capacity to target manned planes, drones and incoming missiles and would complicate efforts to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria if the U.S. and other nations were to decide to initiate one.