The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has been accused of killing a top research director at a military agency linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
The al-Watan newspaper reported that Aziz Azbar, of the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), died in a targeted blast Saturday night, in Syria’s Hama province.
It said Israel was suspected of carrying out the attack, although it provided no evidence for the claim.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syria war through local contacts, also reported Azbar’s death. It said he specialized in developing rocket systems at the center’s Masyaf facility in Hama. Azbar’s driver was also killed in the blast, according to al-Watan and the Observatory.
An insurgent group calling itself the Abu Amara Brigades claimed responsibility for the operation. The group has previously claimed attacks targeting officials and militia commanders inside government territory.
Western and Israeli intelligence agencies have long linked the SSRC to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sought to downplay the possibility of Israeli involvement.
“Every day in the Middle East there are hundreds of explosions and settling of scores. Every time they try to place the blame on us. So we won’t take this too seriously,” he told Hadashot News.
There have been 85 chemical attacks across Syria since 2013, the vast majority of which were carried out by the regime, according to Human Rights Watch. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has confirmed 34 incidents.
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org