Syrian rebels have threatened to attack Russia’s naval base at the port of Tartous if Moscow continues to supply weapons to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“We have a warning for the Russian forces: if they will send any more weapons that kill our families and the Syrian people we will hit them hard inside Syria,” said Louay al-Mokdad, a logistical coordinator for the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“Informers inside the regime are telling that us that there is a big weapons’ shipment arriving at Tartous in the next two weeks. We don’t want to attack the port, we are not terrorists, but if they keep acting like this we will have no choice.”
The FSA has formed a ‘Naval brigade’, made up of defectors from the Syrian navy, which operates close to Tartous. “Many of our men used to work in the port of Tartous and they know it well,” said Captain Walid, a former officer in the Syrian Navy. “We are watching very closely the movements of the Russians.”
The port, which was leased to Russia as part of a debt write off, is where most of Moscow’s arms shipments arrive in Syria.
The FSA has identified warehouses used to store weapons and the living quarters of Russian officers. “We can easily destroy the port. If we hit the weapons’ stores with anti-tank missiles or another weapon it would trigger a devastating explosion,” said an FSA representative. “Or we can attack the ships directly.”
Earlier this month, the Kremlin made clear that it would fulfil its “contractual obligations” and continue to supply Syria with arms and military hardware, including anti-aircraft systems.