What was this military center that the Israeli Air Force apparently bombed last night? Was it connected to Syria’s huge chemical weapons stores? Probably.
Israeli warplanes attacked a military research center in Damascus province at dawn on Wednesday, Syria’s military command said, denying reports that the planes had struck a convoy carrying weapons from Syria to Lebanon.
Local residents and experts claim the target was a chemical weapons production center.
Two people were killed and five wounded in the attack on the site in Jamraya, which Syria described as one of a number of “scientific research centers aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense”.
The building was destroyed, the military command said in a statement carried by state media.
It said the planes crossed into Syria below the radar level, just north of Mount Hermon, and returned the same way.
The Jamraya area contains many military facilities as well as what is likely a chemical weapons production and storage site. The area also houses training camps for Hezbollah combatants who are learning to operate advanced Russian weapons systems.
It was further noted that the attack occurred after terrorist groups tried and failed to take control of the site several times.
The terrorists’ attempt to take control of the site must have been the trigger for the Israeli attack, to prevent a successful terrorist takeover.
Residents near Damascus had previously told AFP that missiles had struck a military site for unconventional weapons on Tuesday at 11:30 pm.
According to them, the center, which is located in Al-Hameh, about fifteen kilometers north-west of Damascus, was hit by six missiles that were partially destroyed, causing a fire and killing at least two people.
There is some confusion whether an arms convoy was also struck:
Earlier on Wednesday AP quoted US and regional officials as saying that Israel conducted an airstrike inside Lebanon, hitting a convoy of trucks.
The officials said Israel had been planning in the days leading up to the airstrike to hit a shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. They said the shipment included sophisticated, Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, which would be strategically “game-changing” in the hands of Hezbollah.
Lebanese sources also commented on the reports and stressed that there had been no strike inside Lebanese territory. An eye witness from a border town said that there had been no explosion.
The Times of Israel reports that it is doubtful that the IAF struck actual chemical weapons because of the dangers of toxic fallout.
Israeli war planes that reportedly struck near the Lebanese border with Syria would either have bombed a convoy of conventional weapons or the nontoxic component of a chemical agent, according to a leading Israeli expert on chemical weapons.
“The chances that someone was able to bomb a chemical weapons convoy without causing significant environmental damage is very small,” Lt. Col. (res) Dr. Dany Shoham, a BESA Center fellow and expert on chemical and biological weapons in the Middle East, told The Times of Israel.
According to officials quoted by AP, the alleged airstrike had in fact hit a truck convoy carrying anti-aircraft missiles bound for the Lebanese Islamist militia Hezbollah.
Yisrael Hayom reports on the diplomatic and security implications for Israel of Syria’s chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands:
Vice premier Silvan Shalom said on Sunday that any sign that Syria’s grip on its chemical weapons was slipping, as President Bashar al-Assad fights rebels trying to overthrow him, could trigger Israeli intervention.
Israeli sources said on Tuesday that Syria’s advanced conventional weapons would represent as much of a threat to Israel as its chemical arms should they fall into the hands of Syrian rebel forces or Hezbollah guerrillas based in Lebanon.
Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel expressed his worries on Tuesday about the fate of the Syrian chemical arsenal. “There have been tectonic movements in Syria shifting it toward collapse.” Eshel said at the Israeli Air Force Center in Herziliya. “There is a massive weapons arsenal in Syria, some of which is very advanced and some that is unconventional. All that [weaponry] could find its way to our borders.”
“Governments are falling apart and that’s bringing a resurgence of terrorist activity on our borders the likes of which we haven’t seen for decades. We need to deal with a very wide scope of threats, as of today we are faced with both the conventional and unconventional, from the knife to the nuclear weapon, both near and far,” he said.
With Syria’s arsenal potentially falling to rebel hands, Eshel warned that Israel could face a much broader threat. “We could be faced with a much wider arsenal, advanced Western weaponry, with weapons from the east and locally produced arms.”
Israel fears that should such weapons fall into the hands of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon, this could dent the Jewish state’s superiority in any future confrontation.
But Eshel said the air force was involved in what he termed “a campaign between wars,” working with Israeli intelligence agencies in often covert missions. He did not elaborate other than to blame arch-adversary Iran for the lion’s share of weapons supplies to Israel’s regional enemies.
Sudan, a conduit for arms to the Palestinian Gaza Strip via Egypt, blamed Israel for an attack last October on a weapons factory in Khartoum. Israel also operates regularly in the skies over Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Russia said it will take control of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile if Israel promises not to attack Syria, “until it gets a green light from Moscow and Washington”, according to a report by Saudi news outlet Al-Watan.
If the reports are true, it would not be far fetched to connect it to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent dispatch of his National Security Council Chief Yaakov Amidror to Moscow. The report claims its information is based on a “senior Israeli official.”
Similarly, Israel Hayom tells us that Israel has been repeatedly warning the world about the dangers of Syria’s chemical weapons arriving in the wrong hands, i.e. the Islamist Syrian rebels or even Hezbollah in Lebanon:
Israel continued to warn the world on Monday of the potentially devastating outcome if Syria’s chemical arsenal falls into the hands of rebels, or worse, Hezbollah, as Lebanese media outlets reported that the Lebanese terror group had already obtained some chemical weapons and long range missiles.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday met with a delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives led by Rep. Rob Wittman, expressed his concern over the developments in Syria, and said the outcomes facing Israel were “bad, bad and worse.”
According to Lebanese TV, Hezbollah fighters helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight the Sunni rebels in Syria have now taken over army bases throughout the country. Hundreds of armed fighters from the Shiite group were seen accompanying personnel from the Syrian military’s unconventional weapons program, as well as taking position inside Syrian bases where chemical weapons were stored.
The Syrian military has been fighting rebels to keep control of the al-Safira compound south of Aleppo, where chemical weapons are produced and stored. Arab media reported that after days of pitched battles the army succeeded in repelling the rebel attack and regaining control of the territory around the base.
Assad’s peace of mind could be the result of something else. Russia has deployed a sizable naval force for an exercise off the Syrian coast. According to the Institute for National Security Studies, the exercise, which is expected to end on Tuesday, is being presided over by Russia’s military chief.
Tzvi Magen, who compiled the INSS report, did not rule out the possibility that, under the guise of a training exercise, Russia had deployed a large military contingent to a sensitive fighting zone.
If this weren’t so deadly serious it would read like something out of Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy series. In reality this is the stuff of our nightmares.
The disturbing news from our northern border has triggered another rush by Israeli citizens to purchase or update their gas masks and safety kits:
Postal officials reported a significant increase in demand for gas masks and other protective gear Wednesday, as fears of Syrian chemical weapons being turned against Israel ramped up.
Statistics showed that on Tuesday, almost three times the average number of citizens came to distribution centers across the country to receive gas masks.
Officials from the Israel Postal Company said that over 4,000 masks had been given out Tuesday, up from 1,400 on the days before. The company also stated that in Jerusalem and Beersheba the numbers were especially high, up from less than 400 a day to over 1,000.
As of now, more than 4,700,000 protective gear kits have been distributed countrywide.
And talking of safety, just to make us feel a little more secure, (and as I mentioned a couple of days ago):
Also Sunday, Israel deployed two Iron Dome batteries in the north, at least one of them near Haifa, amid growing fears that Syrian chemical weapons may be turned against the Jewish state.
If you haven’t received or updated your gas mask kits by now, I would highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible. Please G-d we will never need them but better to be safe than sorry.