Syrian rebels have fired rockets at the Latakia airport where Russia has reportedly been setting up a forward air operating base amid its military buildup in the country.
“Two projectiles struck an area in agricultural land close to the Hmeimim airbase,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday evening in reference to the military facility located adjacent to Latakia’s civilian international airport.
“No information about human losses has emerged,” the monitoring NGO added.
Ahrar al-Sham claimed credit for the attack, releasing a video Monday claiming to show its militants firing Grad rockets at the base.
Ahrar al-Sham targeting base
An artillery brigade commander with the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham group operating northeast of Latakia spoke with a pro-rebel outlet about the shelling of the airport.
The commander, identified as “Omar,” told Al-Souria Net that his unit has targeted the runway with Russian made Grad rockets that were seized from regime military bases.
“These are your goods. They have been returned to you,” he added in reference to the use of Russian rockets to target Russia’s interests in Syria.
“Anyone who participates in the shedding of the Syrian people’s blood will be targeted,” the rebel commander warned.
He explained that the rocket campaign would continue for several days and that its goal was to show that “any spot or location where warplanes take off to [strike] civilians directly or indirectly will be targeted.”
Russian planes redirected
Another pro-rebel outlet reported that a group of Russian planes was seen arriving at an airbase near Homs and noted that the fleet may have been transferred there due to the lack of sufficient fortifications at the Hmeimim airbase.
All4Syria cited a source as saying that the planes had been seen landing at the Shayrat airbase, which lies around 25 km southeast of the central Syrian city.
Although the outlet has not been able to confirm the source’s report, it said the lack of bomb-proof hangars at Hmeimim has forced redeployment of incoming aircraft.
“There is a large operational deployment plan for Russian planes arriving at Hmeimim airbase that includes several airbases,” the outlet claimed.
According to the report, the deployment plan includes Hama airbase, the Dumeir and Nasiriya airbases to the north of Damascus and Bley airbase in Eastern Ghouta.
Russia’s Latakia airbase work
Russia in recent weeks has been conducting a major military buildup in Syria amid a flurry of reports that Moscow is preparing to set up an airbase in the Latakia province to conduct airstrikes on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Israel’s defense minister told reporters September 10 that Russian troops and technical advisors have been arriving in the country “for operating planes and combat helicopters.”
The SOHR, in turn, has said that secretive construction work has been underway in the Latakia airport, with access restricted to Russian personnel.
“Around two weeks ago, the SOHR received trusted information that the Russian forces are working to set up a long runway in the Hmeimim area… capable of receiving large aircrafts,” the monitoring NGO’s Monday report said.
According to the Observatory’s sources “the Russian parties constructing the runway have forbidden any Syrian civilian or military party from entering the area.”