Pro-Assad media blames Israel's Mossad for assassination of chemical weapons chief

Aziz Azbar

Aziz Azbar

A senior scientist for the Syrian regime involved in the country's development of weapons was killed along with his driver in a vehicle explosion in central Syria, activists reported Sunday.

Israeli sources are reporting that the country's intelligence suspected Azbar of leading a classified weapons development programme called Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, and was busy re-building an underground weapons factory to replace the one said to have been destroyed by Israel a year ago.

Also on Tuesday, the New York Times quoted an unnamed official with a Middle Eastern intelligence organization as confirming that Israel was responsible for the attack.

Asbar headed the Maysaf research centre in Hama, which was hit by Israeli air strikes last month and in September previous year, the Observatory said.

Esber had played a key role in developing Syrian chemical weapons in recent years, and was also charged with coordinating Iranian and Hizballah activities in Syria, according to the source.

The scientific center, run by Azbar, was the target of at least two Israeli aerial assaults over the past months. Both Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Hezbollah accused Israel of assassinating the high-level scientist shortly after the bombing took place.

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Israel has denied any involvement in Asbar's death, though Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said he "welcomed" the news.

Aziz Asbar, who was working to update Syria's missile stockpile and make it more accurate, died in an explosion in the city of Masyaf on Saturday.

Under Israeli law, only the prime minister can authorize assassinations, termed "negative treatment" by Mossad.

Last September, Israel nearly entirely destroyed a weapons factory in Masyaf, where Asbar was a senior manager. The group has previously claimed attacks targeting officials and militia commanders inside government territory.

A succession of victories since then over both the Islamic State group and various rebel factions has extended government control to almost two-thirds of the country.

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