Israeli fighter jets targeted a military research center near Damascus early on Wednesday morning, the Syrian army said. The statement follows earlier reports of an Israeli airstrike on a convoy with Syrian weapons heading to Lebanon.
The Syrian army’s general command has issued a statement, saying an airstrike was launched by the IAF targeting a military research center in Jamraya, rural Damascus.
“Israeli fighter jets violated our air space at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” the army statement said as cited by SANA.
The strike caused material damage to the center and a nearby building, killing two workers and wounding five others, the statement added. The Israeli warplanes were flying low under the radars and “snuck in from the north of Al-Sheikh Mountain” according to the report. It called the strike a “blatant act of aggression” against Syria and accused Israel of supporting terrorist activity in the country.
Earlier there were reports in the media of an attack by Israeli jets on Wednesday morning striking a target on the Syrian-Lebanese border amid repeated violations of Lebanese airspace. A US government official has confirmed reports that Israeli warplanes targeted a convoy headed from Syria to Lebanon, the Associated Press says.
The Syrian military however has denied this, saying there was no Israeli strike on a convoy of trucks on its border.
However, it was “possible” that the convoy was near the large military site when it came under attack, diplomatic sources told Reuters.
Although it has not yet been confirmed whether an airstrike indeed targeted a military site near Damascus, experts believe that after months of constant rebel attacks on Syrian air defense systems an airstrike would make sense.
“It finally makes sense because the rebels or as they like to call themselves the revolutionaries, they have been attacking air defense bases near Damascus for the past seven months,” Dr Ali Mohamad, editor in chief of the Syria Tribune news website told RT. “They’ve managed to attack the S-200 base and over four SM-2 and SM-3 bases. Now this followed by an airstrike from Israel. So it all adds up, it makes sense. It only shows that Israel has a great interest in the instability in Syria and that it is being helped by groups of armed rebels in Syria.”
Chemical weapons false flag?
Israel had reportedly been planning for several days the airstrike to hit a shipment of sophisticated weaponry – allegedly including chemical weapons and Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles – bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“This episode boils down to a warning by Israel to Syria and Hezbollah not to engage in the transfer of sensitive weapons,” a regional security source told Reuters.
So far none of the officials in Israel or other concerned parties have pinpointed the exact location and target of the airstrike. The anonymous diplomatic sources however have told Reuters that chemical weapons were believed to be stored at the Jamraya research center, although the vehicles in convoy were unlikely to be carrying them.
Israeli officials have said repeatedly they fear Assad losing his grip on his chemical weapons stockpile. But Dr. Ali Mohamad believes the chemical weapons danger was just a pretext to destroy Syria’s military research centers to ensure that Damascus can’t produce arms for its military or to ship to its allies in the region.
“Military research centers are responsible for developing weapons in particular land-to-land long range missiles,” he explained. “And what Israel wants is to stop this research and stop this process. And of course Israel will claim that this is connected to a chemical weapons arsenal, but this is of course not true because nobody stores chemical weapons in a research center.”
Everybody who lives in Syria knows “that this is not at all about chemical weapons,” Mohamad said.
“Let’s remember that the Syrian official who was responsible for all military research projects has been assassinated in Damascus by the rebels,” he explained. “Let’s also remember that the person who orchestrated the Syrian long-range missile project colonel Dawoud Rajiha was also assassinated in Damascus. This is about stopping the Syrian scientific military research projects and is about breaking the link that will help [Israel] overcome the Lebanese resistance and the Palestinian resistance.”