A Syrian scientist at the head of a research center allegedly linked to the development of chemical weapons and bombed by Israel in the past was killed in a car-bombing, according to Syrian reports early Sunday.
Aziz Azbar, the head of the Syrian Scientific Research and Studies Center in Masyaf, was killed along with his driver in a blast Saturday night, according to reports.
The deaths were reported by a number of Syrian and Lebanese news outlets as well as the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor and a Facebook page purportedly linked to the Syrian military.
Azbar was close to both Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Iranian regime, which was thought to be using the facility for arms development, according to the observatory.
According to some reports, a car Azbar and his driver were in blew up when a passerby managed to attach a bomb to it.
There was no official confirmation of his death.
The Scientific Research and Studies Center in Masyaf, also known by its French acronym CERS, has been the target of at least two reported air attacks blamed on Israel, including one in late April said to have killed a number of Iranians.
Western officials have long associated CERS with the production of chemical weapons. Reports have also indicated an Iranian missile operation at the site.
After the July strike on the site outside of Hama in northern Syria, the observatory said the air attack had targeted a “workshop supervised by Iranians where surface-to-surface missiles are made.”
#Pt. Update: local sources say 10 missiles were fired by #Israel. At least 6 hit the military complex N. of #Masyaf. Video shows air defenses in action. #Syria. pic.twitter.com/UD6yNLwPbz https://t.co/HGf0txGWfF
— Nurlana Khalil (@NuNurlanax) July 22, 2018
The site was also reportedly hit by Israel in September 2017.
— سفيان السامرائي (@SufianSamarrai) September 7, 2017
Israel does not comment on reports of airstrikes in Syria but has said it would work to keep advanced weapons out of terrorists’ hands and has vowed to stop Iran from gaining a foothold in the country.
In April 2017, the Trump administration placed sanctions on hundreds of CERS employees following a chemical attack on the Syrian rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun that killed dozens of civilians, including children.
Another CERS facility near Damascus was bombed by US, British and French forces in April after another chemical attack.
The Syrian regime has been accused of dozens of gas attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians during the war, even after it said it was giving up its stockpile.
A senior member of the Syrian opposition, citing security officials still working for the regime at the time, told The Times of Israel in 2014 that Assad’s forces were stockpiling chemical substances and missiles carrying chemical warheads at the site, which was not made available to international inspectors tasked with ensuring the destruction of the weapons.