By: jpost.com Staff, Anna Ahronheim; jpost.com
Syria accuses Israel of targeting a chemical weapons plant and killing two of its soldiers; Israel has yet to confirm or deny the allegations, but Israeli security officials are speaking out.
Syria accused Israel on Thursday of carrying out an aerial attack on Assad posts overnight. The alleged Israeli attack hit a scientific research center where chemical weapons are manufactured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In a statement, the Syrian army warned Israel of “dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region” following the attack.
According to the reports, the attack was launched at 2:30 a.m. on targets located in central Syria, in the area of Hama, and also targeted several weapons convoys that were en route to Hezbollah strongholds in the area.
The Syrian army charged later on Thursday morning that Israel killed two of its soldiers during the aerial attack. An IDF spokeswoman declined to comment on the reports, saying that the army does not comment on operational matters.
Arab media claimed there are three casualties as a result of the attack, which centered on a regime post that belongs to the scientific research center on the outskirts of Hama, situated in the northwestern part of the country. In the scientific center, the regime reportedly develops munitions such as missiles and has developed chemical weapons as well.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that an airstrike on Masyaf in Syria hit a Scientific Studies and Research Center facility and an adjacent military camp where ground-to-ground rockets are stored.
The United States has imposed sanctions on employees of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, which it describes as the Syrian agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons including chemical weapons, something Damascus denies.
Syrian social media activists reported that “Israeli airplanes infiltrated from the valley area in Lebanon and attacked the center.”
Lebanese media reported that around 4 p.m. IAF fighter jets were spotted circling above Lebanon.
Speaking to Army Radio early Thursday morning, Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni, who previously served as the military secretary of the prime minister, said that Israel “must do everything to prevent Iran from getting a better stronghold than that which it already has on Syria.”
He also said that he “assumes there’s a level of cooperation with the Americans following such an attack or beforehand, but we don’t have to ask for their approval.”
Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence and Executive Director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) took to Twitter stating that the strike was not routine and targeted a Syrian military-scientific center that develops and manufactures, among other things, precision missiles.
“The factory in the attack also produces chemical weapons and barrels of explosives that killed thousands of Syrian citizens. If the attack was conducted by Israel, it would be a commendable and moral action by Israel against the slaughter in Syria,” he wrote.
“The attack sent 3 important messages: Israel won’t allow for empowerment and production of strategic arms. Israel intends to enforce its redlines despite the fact that the great powers are ignoring them. The presence of Russian air defense does not prevent airstrikes attributed to Israel.
“Now it’s important to keep the escalation in check and to prepare for a Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah response and even opposition from Russia.”
While the IDF does not comment on foreign reports, it would not be the first time Israeli jets have hit Assad regime and Hezbollah targets in Syria. Jerusalem has repeatedly said that while there is no interest by Israel to enter into Syria’s civil war, there are red lines that Jerusalem has set including the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and an Iranian presence on its borders.
Former Israel Air Force Head Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel stated that Israel carried out at least 100 strikes in the past five years, against the transfer of advanced weaponry from the Assad regime to Hezbollah, including the transfer of chemical weapons.
Just yesterday, the United Nations released a report affirming that the Syrian regime, governed by Bashar Assad, had indeed used chemical weapons (specifically Serin gas) to attack its own people when it had bombed the province of Idlib this past April.
The UN investigators confirmed that more than 80 civilians died as a direct result of the lethal attack on Khan Sheikhoun.
This is a developing story.
Yasser Okbi and Reuters contributed to this report.