#BreakingSyria: Israeli Target in Masyaf Verified

High resolution satellite images reveal the Israeli target in Masyaf on July 22, 2018

Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Right: (Source: Novosti Sirii).

High-resolution imagery of the aftermaths of an Israeli air strike in southern Syria recently emerged online, providing a better look at what the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) struck in the Masyaf region. The latest imagery, verified against other sources, appears to prove that the Israeli operation on July 22, 2018, was a precision strike on two large trucks rather than a full range attack on the military complex.

@DFRLab reported the story earlier this month, providing open source evidence of the event.

Israel and its opponents characterized the strike and the target differently. The Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen network reported the alleged targets were scientific research centers for chemical arms production. The Times of Israel identified the complex as an Iranian-run missile production facility.

Initial satellite imagery suggested the Syrian media claim of up to 10 Israeli missiles launched as highly unlikely, since only one building in the complex was visibly damaged. Higher resolution photos recently appeared on an Israeli media outlet NZIV and various social media posts, which provided a clearer view of the target area.

The first photo presented the destroyed area of the complex — the building with a light-colored roof on the western side of the complex. Compared to Planet imagery taken on July 22 and July 23, confirmed that this was the same building as previously reported.

Visual comparison of Planet.com satellite imagery to newly surfaced images. (The top of these pictures are facing North). Top: (Source: Planet.com); Bottom: (Source: NZIV.net).

Another photo showed the building on July 20, two days before the IDF strike. Two large trucks were clearly visible parked on the northwest corner of the building which was destroyed on July 22. These photos suggest that the strike inflicted by the IDF was highly precise and aimed only to destroy the trucks and cargo rather than the complex itself.

Targeted military complex in Masyaf. Western side, compared with newly surfaced photos. (The top of these pictures are facing North). Top Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Top Right: (Source: Israel Hayom), Bottom: (Source: NZIV.net).

What exactly provoked the IDF strike remains unknown. Some sources suggested that Israel believed or knew that there was a shipment at the factory bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. This complex was mentioned by Israeli sources as not only responsible for chemical weapons development, but also for various missile and rocket development projects, including producing the Syrian version of the Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles (SSM).

Conclusion

New high resolution satellite imagery verified the observations presented earlier by the @DFRLab. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, this strike targeted a “workshop supervised by Iranians where surface-to-surface missiles are made.”

As this complex is believed to be used for producing and developing various missiles, chemical weapons, and close ties to Iran, a harsh response by the IDF was unsurprising. The Syrian versions of Iran’s Fateh 110 SSM allegedly produced in this complex have a range of approximately 200km. These missiles are perceived as a threat to Israeli territory, especially in the hands of Hezbollah located in southern Lebanon. Contrary to the claims made by the Syrian media, the attack consisted of a precise strike attack aimed to take out the delivery rather than the research complex itself.

@DFRLab will continue to monitor significant military developments and operations in Syria.


Lukas Andriukaitis is a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (@DFRLab).

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