Reports: Israel bombs military facility in Syria
The Syrian Army has claimed that Israeli warplanes have attacked a military base in Masyaf in the country's western region. Reports suggest the base is a suspected chemical weapons manufacturing unit. The air strike, launched from Lebanese airspace, caused "material damage and deaths of two soldiers." Syria has warned Israel of "dangerous repercussions." Israel declined to comment on the operation.
Israeli rockets reportedly struck the facility which housed a branch of the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC). Israel suspects that the center has supplied weapons to militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah. "The facility is believed to have also produced chemical weapons and explosive barrels that have killed thousands of Syrian civilians," notes Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israeli military intelligence.
Hamas is a Palestine-based Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization considered to be the de-facto governing authority of the Gaza strip. It has fought many conflicts with Israel. Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite-Islamist organization and a political party. It fights Israel as Iran's proxy.
Israeli strikes were timed after UN investigators confirmed that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2013 killing at least 82 people. Sarin, the chemical agent employed is believed to have been developed at Masyaf. Further, Israel is currently conducting a military exercise, the biggest of its kind in 19 years and a suspected rehearsal to attack Hezbollah.
Israel has been conducting an air campaign to prevent Iranian weapon shipments from getting to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Syria, as well as Lebanese militia siding with the Syrian government. Israel further suspects that Tehran is building missile-production facilities for Hezbollah in Syria and Iran. It also finds Syria's chemical weapons program and the regime's use against civilians worrisome.
Israel does not favor Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's government. It has long been concerned over the rising power of Assad's allies, namely Iran and Hezbollah, and his regime's chemical weapons program. The strike can also be seen as a clear warning for Russia and other Assad supporters. Israel could further be gearing for an all-out air campaign against Hezbollah's weapon supply lines.