In air raids on Syria overnight Tuesday, Israeli jets targeted several sites, including a biological weapons research center, which hadn’t previously been mentioned in the media, TIME magazine claimed Friday.
The center was “flattened out of concern that it might fall into the hands of Islamist extremists fighting to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad,” the report said, quoting Western intelligence officials.
The article also claimed Washington has given Israel a “green light” to carry out more such raids if it deems them necessary.
TIME added that Israel has raised security at embassies “and other potential targets overseas,” for fear of a Hezbollah-orchestrated retaliatory attack.
Thus far, the TIME article noted, only two airstrikes had been mentioned in the media: One attack, announced by Syria, was allegedly on a scientific research center in Jamarya, northwest of Damascus; the other, reported by various news organizations, claimed Israeli jets struck a convoy carrying advanced anti-aircraft defense systems toward Lebanon, presumably to Hezbollah, the Shi’ite group allied to Iran and Assad.
But “a Western intelligence official indicated to TIME that at least one to two additional targets were hit the same night, without offering details,” the magazine reported.
Regarding the strike at Jamarya, the magazine added new details: “Among the buildings leveled at the military complex at Jamarya, outside Damascus, were warehouses stocked with equipment necessary for the deployment of chemical and biological weapons, relatively complicated systems typically manned by specially trained forces,” it said.
The biological warfare labs were considered to be of particular concern — in part because of the grave damage small amounts of biological agents can cause, and also due to the stated interest in such weapons by terror groups, namely Osama bin Laden’s successor as head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The TIME story added that the US was prepared to carry out raids of its own in the Aleppo area if it feared rebels might otherwise gain control of weapons of mass destruction in that area of Syria.
On Wednesday, US officials told The New York Times that Israel had notified the United States about an airstrike it carried out overnight Tuesday near the Lebanese-Syrian border. The officials said that they believed the target of the strike was a convoy carrying sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry intended to reach Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.
An unnamed Western official told the Wall Street Journal that the convoy was carrying sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft weapons, which could constitute a strategic game-changer were Hezbollah to possess them.
A former Syrian general said Friday that the facility reportedly struck by Israel produced non-conventional weapons, in addition to conventional arms. Maj. Gen. Adnan Sillu was previously in charge of the country’s chemical weapons training program.
Israel has yet to confirm or even officially comment on Tuesday’s alleged air raid.
On Friday, meanwhile, the Lebanese National News Agency claimed that Israeli jets flew low over southern Lebanon — Hezbollah’s stronghold — and carried out “mock raids.” The government outlets said that its correspondents reported Israeli planes flying over the southern Lebanese towns of Nabatieh, Tuffah, Marjayoun and Bint Jbeil.