Analysis: Syria center long been on Israel’s radar

Reported air strike appears to have targeted site that fits definition of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, which has been labeled a state organization responsible for developing biological, chemical weapons.

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January 31, 2013 04:09
1 minute read.
IAF plane takes part in maneuvers [file]

IDF jet 311. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson)

 
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Although details are still sketchy, Wednesday’s reported air strike appears to have targeted a military research center near Damascus – a center that fits the definition of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, known by its French acronym, CERS.

Syrian state television said Israel had hit “scientific research centers aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense,” a description that fits well with CERS, which has been labeled a state organization responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons and transferring them to Hezbollah and Hamas.

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Back in 2010, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, a former director of the National Security Council’s Counter-terrorism Bureau, issued a warning to the international community, saying CERS would be demolished if it continued to arm terrorist organizations. The facility has long been on Israel’s radar as a top national security threat.

In 2005 then-US president George W. Bush designated CERS a weapons proliferator, and in 2003 the US Treasury banned trade with three of its subsidiaries.

In 2004, Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said CERS was developing ricin-based chemical weapons.

In the confusion of conflicting reports, the narrative that dominated Wednesday’s headlines held that Hezbollah had tried to import strategic weapons from Syria to add to its growing arsenal, and that a weapons convoy had been struck.

It is too soon to know which claim is true. It is possible that both are.

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Hezbollah is pointing more than 50,000 rockets at Israel and can strike deep into the Israeli home front, meaning the IDF needs to retain its operational edge and ensure that in any future conflict it will not be hindered by new Syrian arms.

The coming hours and days should shed more light on what occurred in Syria on Wednesday, and what the repercussions of the reported airstrike might be.

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