TEL AVIV – Israeli warplanes struck targets in central Syria overnight that are believed to be holding chemical weapons, reports in Arab media said Thursday morning. The strike drew a backlash from the Assad regime, which warned Israel of “dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action.”
According to several reports, the strike happened at 2:30am at a Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) facility near Masyaf in the area of Hama. The center is used to develop missiles as well as chemical weapons. Three people died in the strike, according to the reports.
The Syrian army accused Israel on Thursday morning of killing two of its soldiers during the strike.
The army issued a statement threatening Israel with “dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region.”
The Israeli Air Force also targeted a number of weapons convoys bound for the Hezbollah terror group, the reports said.
The reports have not been confirmed by the IDF.
In April, the Trump administration placed sanctions on employees of CERS in the aftermath of a chemical attack on the city of Khan Sheikhoun, a Syrian rebel stronghold, that killed more than 80 civilians, including children.
On Wednesday, the UN war crimes commission released a report confirming that the Assad regime had indeed used chemical weapons, including sarin gas, to attack its own people.
The alleged IAF strikes come amid rising tensions between Israel, the U.S., and Russia regarding Iran’s expanding military presence in Lebanon and Syria, partly through its terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni on Thursday warned that Israel “must do everything to prevent Iran from getting a better stronghold than that which it already has on Syria.”
He also told Army Radio that while he “assumes there’s a level of cooperation with the Americans following such an attack or beforehand, we don’t have to ask for their approval.”
Maj. Amos Yadlin, a former director of military intelligence and current head of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), called Wednesday’s strike “commendable.”
“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 tweeted.
“The attack sent 3 important messages: Israel won’t allow for empowerment and production of strategic arms. Israel intends to enforce its red lines 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.”
Israel has been maintaining a policy of neutrality regarding Syria’s civil war but has been vocal about striking regime targets in the event of cross-border spillover fighting.
The Jewish state has also struck Hezbollah-bound weapons convoys.
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