Israel hits alleged Syrian chemical weapons centre

BEIRUT • Syria's army said Israel targeted one of its positions in Hama province early yesterday, which a war monitor said was a branch of the government agency accused by the US of producing chemical weapons.

The army statement said the air strike killed two people and caused material damage near the town of Masyaf, and warned against the "dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region".

The war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the strikes hit a Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) facility, the agency the United States describes as Syria's chemical weapons manufacturer.

The Observatory also said that a military storage camp next to the centre was used to store ground-to-ground rockets and that personnel of Iran and its allied Lebanese Hizbollah group had been seen there more than once. It gave the total number of dead and wounded in the strike as seven.

Israeli officials have in the past admitted that Israel has attacked weapons shipments bound for Lebanon's Iran-backed Hizbollah group, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, without specifying which ones.

An Israeli army spokesman declined to discuss reports of a strike in Syria, saying the army does not comment on operational matters.

Mr Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, tweeted that the reported attack was not routine and targeted a Syrian military scientific centre.

"The facility at Masyaf also produces chemical weapons and explosive barrels that have killed thousands of Syrian civilians," he said in the tweet.

The US has accused the SSRC of developing the sarin gas weapon allegedly used in a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun, a town in the opposition-held northern province of Idlib, in April.

Syria's army did not mention the SSRC in its statement on the Israeli raid but the government in the past has blasted accusations of chemical weapons use in Khan Sheikhun as "fabrications".

United Nations war crimes investigators on Wednesday announced they had an "extensive body of information" indicating Syrian warplanes were behind the attack on Khan Sheikhun in April which killed at least 83 people, a third of them children, and wounded 300 others.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2017, with the headline 'Israel hits alleged Syrian chemical weapons centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe