A suspected key Syrian site for development of biological and chemical arms seemingly sustained some level of destruction last week during an Israeli airstrike on a nearby transport of antiaircraft weapons, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
Previous reports have indicated the Jan. 30 strike was focused on vehicles believed to be carrying weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. However, Syrian television footage also suggests that the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center was also affected to some degree.
Data going back more than 10 years indicates the four-decade-old facility close to Damascus has been used to prepare engineers for development of biological and chemical arms. It has been subject to U.S. economic penalties and is suspected of connections to North Korea, according to U.S. intelligence sources.
The site's “efforts concentrated first of all in upgrading chemical and biological war agents and, second, upgrading dispersal and delivery systems for those agents," said issue specialist Dany Shoham of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
“It’s a very large compound,” he said. “You can imagine that it’s the principal facility of the whole Syrian army that is responsible for developing, testing, upgrading, pilot production of a vast variety of weapons.”
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday the airstrike was "another proof that when we say something we mean it. We say that we don't think it should be allowable to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon to Hezbollah from Syria when [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad falls," the Wall Street Journal reported. Israel had previously not discussed the matter publicly.
Syria's Foreign Ministry has in writing called on the U.N. Security Council to denounce the attack, RIA Novosti reported.
A top official with Assad ally Iran said: "Just as it regretted its aggressions after the 33-day, 22-day and eight-day wars, today the Zionist entity will regret the aggression it launched against Syria," the Associated Press reported.