Head of Syria Research Center Killed in Car Bombing

Syria on Tuesday accused Israel of assassinating a top Syrian rocket scientist over the weekend, heightening the growing tensions between the two countries as Syrian government troops restore control over areas bordering Israel.

An Israeli official declined to comment on reports of Asber's death when asked by the Reuters news agency.

Aziz Azbar, head of the Scientific Research and Studies Center in Masyaf, also known by its French acronym "CERS", was killed in a vehicle bombing incident alongside his driver on Saturday night, Syrian Al-Watan newspaper reported Saturday night.

The report said that Isber was working alongside Maj Gen Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite al-Quds Force and enjoyed high level access to both the Syrian and Iranian governments.

The Tel Aviv regime has been blamed for the killing of several scientists in recent years, including two engineers from the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, in the last 18 months. Every time they try to place the blame on us. According to unnamed officials cited by the Times, Asbar was targeted by Israel because he was helping Syria to develop long-range missiles accurate enough to target Israeli cities hundreds of miles away.

Under Israeli law, only the prime minister can authorize assassinations, termed "negative treatment" by Mossad. Asbar led a top-secret weapons-development unit called Sector 4 and was working on building an underground weapons factory to replace on that was destroyed by Israel previous year.

Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syrian conflict but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it says are deliveries of advanced weaponry to its Lebanese enemy Hezbollah and other Iran-backed forces.

Early 2017 marked the low point for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's now seven-year-old civil war with his authority confined to just 17 percent of national territory.

  • Joey Payne