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Gantz: Iran converting Syrian military sites into missile factories

Defense minister says precision munitions destined for Hezbollah, speaking amid uptick in reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a Jerusalem Post conference in New York, September 12, 2022. (Nir Arieli)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a Jerusalem Post conference in New York, September 12, 2022. (Nir Arieli)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday revealed a map of military facilities across Syria he alleged were used to manufacture advanced munitions for Iran and its terror proxies.

“Iran is building terror industries in Syria for its needs. Recently it started building advanced industries in Yemen and Lebanon as well. This trend must be stopped,” Gantz said in New York.

The remarks came amid an apparent uptick in airstrikes widely attributed to Israel in Syria.

Gantz pointed to the Scientific Studies and Research Center, known as CERS, which has a facility near the northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf long associated with the production of precision surface-to-surface missiles, including the process of casting solid rocket motors, as well as chemical weapons.

“The sites that I reveal to you on the map, and in particular the underground site in Masyaf where precision missiles are manufactured, constitute a significant potential threat to the region and to Israel,” Gantz said, addressing a Jerusalem Post conference.

He accused Iran of transforming Syrian military sites into precision-guided missile manufacturing facilities for Hezbollah and other Iranian militias in the region. He said the initiative began under Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force who was assassinated by the US in 2020.

In this photo released by ImageSat International on September 2, 2022, damage is seen to the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Masyaf, Syria (ImageSat International)

Several buildings at CERS were damaged in an airstrike attributed to Israel last month. The area around Masyaf, which is thought to be used as a base for Iranian forces and pro-Iranian militias, has been repeatedly targeted in recent years in attacks widely attributed to Israel.

Buildings at CERS specifically have also been targeted numerous times. In May, satellite images showed that an underground site in the area was targeted.

As a rule, Israel’s military does not comment on specific strikes in Syria, but has admitted conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country. It says it also attacks arms shipments believed to be bound for those groups, chief among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

A map of Syrian military sites allegedly involved in manufacturing advanced missiles for Iran, revealed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz on September 12, 2022. (Defense Ministry)

Recent airstrikes attributed to Israel have disrupted operations at two major airports in Syria, apparently to stem attempts to ship weapons to Hezbollah.

Generally, relatively large weapons are thought to be smuggled via Syria on Iranian cargo airlines, which frequently land at Damascus International, Aleppo International, and the Tiyas, or T-4, airbase outside of the central Syrian city of Palmyra.

The weaponry is then believed to be stored in warehouses in the area before being trucked to Lebanon.

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