Syria accuses Israel's Mossad of assassinating scientist

A top Syrian weapons engineer killed over the weekend when a bomb in his vehicle exploded was the victim of a targeted assassination by Israel's spy agency, The New York Times reports.

A vehicle bomb killed him last Saturday, with Syrian expert Tony Badran tweeting "Reports that Aziz Esber, a very senior figure in the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, who worked on missile development and directed R&D facility in Masyaf, was killed in a auto bomb in Hama".

The centre has always been linked by intelligence agencies to Syria's chemical weapons programme.

Syrian press reports blamed Israel's Mossad intelligence agency for the killing and said Asbar had survived two previous assassination attempts, also by Israeli agents, according to the New York Times. Another Israeli airstrike targeted the research center on July 22, Syrian state media and the Observatory reported. Reports have also indicated an Iranian missile operation at the site. Israeli officials, past and present, had refused to comment on the accusations, although Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman has sought to downplay the possibility of Israeli involvement.

In April 2017, followed the chemical attack on the Syrian rebel held city of Khan Sheikhoun that killed 18 civilians including 5 children, the Trump administration levelled sanctions on 271 CERS workers.

The source said Asbar was a target because Israeli intelligence believed he headed Sector 4, a secret unit at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC).

Also clarifies that "brigade of special purpose" Abu Amara - before they have attacked Assad controlled by the objects stated in the Telegram, set and detonated the explosive devices with the goal of killing Asber.

The Iranian presence in Syria - increasingly spreading south towards the Golan Heights - is one of Israel's greatest concerns, as it fears that after the conflict winds down, fighters will turn their energy to Israel.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attends an interview with a Greek newspaper in Damascus, in this handout released May 10, 2018. Their standoff now however has been further complicated by the extensive presence in Syria of Iran, which maintains advisers and allied militias embedded with the Syrian army.

Vanessa Coleman