Syria blames Israel for assassination of top scientist

Syrian opposition blames regime; rebel group claims responsibility

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman looks at Syria from the Golan Heights (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman looks at Syria from the Golan Heights
Syria has pointed the finger at Israel as being behind the assassination of Dr. Aziz Asbar, a senior scientist who was killed in a car bomb Saturday night in Masyaf in Hama Governorate.
Syria’s Arabic-language daily al-Watan said that Israel’s Mossad secret service agency was behind Asbar’s assassination.
The scientist’s driver was also killed in the blast.
Israel, which does not respond to foreign reports, had no comment on the assassination.
But Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman downplayed the possibility of Israeli involvement, telling Hadashot News that “Every day in the Middle East there are hundreds of explosions and settling of scores. Every time they try to place the blame on us. So we won’t take this too seriously.”
Notwithstanding that Syria blamed Israel for Asbar’s assassination, a Syrian rebel group affiliated to Tahrir al-Sham claimed responsibility. The group, Abu Amara Brigades, released a statement that they had “planted explosive devices” which killed Asbar.
Asbar was one of the directors of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center in Masyaf.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Asbar was close to Syrian President Bashar Assad and to Iran which is believed to have a presence at the Center.
He is believed to have been in charge of managing Hezbollah warehouses and headed Department 4 at the Center, which focuses on the development of Syria’s ballistic missile and rocket programs.
Asbar reportedly worked with Iranian experts in the development of medium and longrange missiles, including the Tishreen and Maysaloun missiles.
He also headed Institute 4000 which has several chemical weapons programs.
According to Western officials, he was involved in the manufacturing of chemical weapons including Sarin gas despite Syria agreeing to dismantle its chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013.
Israeli officials have raised concerns in the past about the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah.
Israel reportedly struck the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center several times, most recently on July 22, when Arab media reported that Israeli jets hit the one of the center’s arms production sites.
Israel is also believed to have struck the presumed base of the Syrian Arab Army’s secretive Unit 450, a branch of the Center which works on the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program. Western intelligence agencies and Syrian opposition figures alleged that Unit 450 had been dispersing chemical weapons stockpiles around the country, as well as to Hezbollah.