The Second Battle of Latakia was a small naval battle of the Yom Kippur War, fought on 11 October 1973, between Israel and Syria. The Israeli Navy was equipped with Sa'ar Missile Boats armed with Gabriel anti-ship missiles while the Syrian Navy were equipped with Soviet Komar and Osa class missile boats armed with Soviet manufactured P-15 Termit (NATO reporting name: SS-N-2 Styx) anti-ship missiles.
After losing 3 Missile Boats the first Battle of Latakia on October 7, 1973, the Syrian Missile Boats refused to engage the Israeli Navy in open battle at sea, using them instead on short forays from harbour mouths to attack and launch missiles and relying on coastal artilleries around the harbour for defense. To provoke the Missile Boats into another open combat, the then Israeli Navy Commander Michael Barkai was dispatched with 7 boats to launch a night attack on Syrian ports.
Oil Tanks at the Ports were marked as secondary targets. Barkai split his forces so that the 2 Sa'ar 4-class missile boats were to attack the Port of Banias while another 2 boats attack the Syrian Naval base at Mina Al-Baida. The last 3 remaining boats composed of 2 Sa'ar 3-class missile boats (the INS Hetz and INS Herev) and 1 Sa'ar 2-class boat (the INS Haifa) were to attack Latakia again.
As the boats begin their attack, Barkai ordered the ships to turn on their Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and at the same time proceed to their targets at 40 knots. Syrian radars were again confused, showing 5 groups of targets with 17 ships from 12–15 miles out at sea. 2 missile boats were dispatched to Banias and another 2 in Latakia to fire their missiles at the targets.
Upon reaching Latakia, the Israelis found that the Syrians were using foreign merchant vessels anchored off harbor to hide behind, darting in and out to fire their missiles. They were ordered to fire on the Syrian boats nevertheless despite the risk of hitting the unarmed merchantmen. As a result, a Japanese and Greek merchant vessels were sunk by Gabriel Missiles.
One Styx missile was seen from the Hertz missing overhead, while another was shot down by a gunner from the Hetz. The battle lasted for almost two hours, with the Israeli boats zigzagging around the port trying to evade fire from the Syrian Missile Boats and Syrian Coastal artillery while at the same time alternately shooting at either the Syrian Missile Boats or at the Oil Tanks at port.
The Israelis ultimately failed to ignite any of the Oil Tanks and could only account for probable hits on 1 Osa and 1 Komar-class boat. Only the attack on the Port of Banias was successful in igniting the Oil Tanks onshore.
- "The Boats of Cherbourg" by Abraham Rabinovich, Chapter 24: Skirmish
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