Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Weapons Center Damaged in Raid Israeli Attack Hits Biological, Chemical Research Facility

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Weapons Center Damaged in Raid Israeli Attack Hits Biological, Chemical Research Facility

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The Israeli attack last week on a Syrian convoy of anti-aircraft weapons appears to have also hit the country's main research center for work on biological and chemical weapons, according to U.S. officials who are sorting through intelligence reports.

While the main target of the attack Wednesday appears to have been the weapons and their launchers -- which the Israelis feared were about to be moved to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon -- video shown on Syrian television appears to back up assertions that the research center north of Damascus was also damaged.

That complex, the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, has been the target of U.S. and Western sanctions for more than a decade because of intelligence suggesting that it was the training site for engineers who worked on chemical and biological weaponry.

A senior U.S. military official, asked about reports that the research center had been damaged, said, "My sense is that the buildings were destroyed due to the bombs which targeted the vehicles" carrying the anti-aircraft weapons, and from "the secondary explosions from the missiles."

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence reports, said "the Israelis had a small strike package," meaning that a relatively few fighter aircraft slipped past Syria's air defenses and that targeting both the missiles and the research center "would risk doing just a little damage to either."

"They clearly went after the air defense weapons on the transport trucks," the official said.

There is still much that is not known about the attack, and there have been contradictory descriptions of it since it was carried out. Initial reports suggested that the anti-aircraft missiles were hit near the Lebanese border. Subsequent reports, both in Time magazine and the Israeli press, suggest there were multiple attacks conducted at roughly the same time.

The Israelis had been silent on the issue until Sunday, when Ehud Barak, the departing Israeli defense minister, gave the first indirect confirmation of the attack at a security conference in Munich. …

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