Syria warned Israel of “serious consequences” Thursday after officially confirming media reports claiming Israeli fighter jets carried out a strike on targets on the state’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) near the city of Hama, which is responsible for research and development of nuclear, biological, chemical and missile technology and weapons.
“The Syrian army warns of the serious consequences of these kinds of aggressive activities against the security and stability in the region,” the statement began.
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“The army is determined to destroy terrorism and obliterate it in all Syrian territory, and it doesn’t matter what kind of aid is given to these terror gangs,” it continued in an allusion to what it claims is Israel’s active support for the terror group.
The Syrian army accused Israel of launching the strike in an “attempt to raise ISIS’s morale, which is collapsing after the crushing victory achieved by the Syrian army against terror,” repeating its charge Israel is in cahoots with ISIS.
“The attack proves Israel is directly supporting ISIS and other terror organizations.”
According to the Syrian claims, the strike was launched from Lebanese air space on the town of Masyaf, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers and material damage.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said two facilities were hit, a scientific research center and a nearby military base where short-range surface-to-surface missiles are stored. He said the attack killed two people and wounded five.
“Many explosions were heard in the area after the air raid,” said Abdurrahman, whose group relies on a network of activists across the country. He said some of the blasts may have been secondary explosions from a missile storage facility being hit.
The Lebanese news site “Mulhak” reported three people were wounded in the attack. On the Facebook page known as “Damascus Now” affiliated with the Assad regime, local officials reported the attack in Hama, some 200km north of Damascus.
While reports of Israeli responsibility had not been verified by Israel early Thursday morning, and despite the IDF’s refusal to deny or admit that it had carried out the attack, it would not be the first time Israeli jets have hit Syrian targets.
Nevertheless, Israeli air strikes have thus far been restricted to retaliatory attacks following rocket fire on Israeli territory resulting from spillovers of the fighting taking place in the war-torn country.
Amos Yadlin is the director the Institute for National Security Studies, justified the attack on the site, regardless of whether it was launched by Israel, adding that if th IDF was behind the attack, it was a clear and overdue moral statement.
“The reported attack overnight is unusual. This is a military-scientific Syrian site in which they produce, among other things, precision missiles, some of which will be significant in the next military campaign,” Yaldin wrote.
“The factory that was attacked also manufactures chemical weapons and explosives that have killed thousands of Syrian civilians. If it was an Israeli attack, it is finally an Israeli moral statement about the massacre in Syria.”
According to Ynet’s military analyst and commentator Ron Ben Yishai, CERS is in the midst of developing missiles using research and knowledge provided by North Korea and Iran.
Moreover, the center is also developing weapons intended to be supplied to the terror group Hezbollah, Israel’s self-declared arch enemy and one of the chief backers of President Assad’s rule.
CERS weapons program includes the development of the S-60 in preparation for transfer to the Shiite terror organization.
According to Ben Yishai, the center is a potential site Tehran is eyeing to establish one of its planned weapons and precision missiles production factories to beef up Hezbollah’s arsenal. Only recently Israel warned that such an eventuality of an Iranian foothold on Syrian soil would not be something Jerusalem would be willing to tolerate.
The air raid came a day after a UN probe found the Syrian government responsible for a chemical attack in April in northern Syria that killed more than 83 people. It was not immediately clear if the facility struck Thursday was used for the production or storage of chemical weapons. Syria denies having or using chemical weapons.
By Roi Kais and Yoav Zitun, Ynet News
AP contributed to this report.