Western intelligence officials have told TIME that “at least one to two additional targets” were struck by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in Syria earlier this week in addition to that which has already been publicly reported. The officials did not specify the additional targets.
On Jan. 30, The Long War Journal reported that the IAF had carried out an airstrike on a Syrian weapons convoy which reportedly included Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, and noted the Syrian regime’s claim that “a scientific research center responsible for raising the levels of resistance and self-defense in Jamraya area in Damascus Countryside” had also been hit.
According to TIME, the “scientific research center” was the Scientific Studies and Research Center (Centre D’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques), and “warehouses [at the SSRC] stocked with equipment necessary for the deployment of chemical and biological weapons” were destroyed in the strike.
While the TIME report provides new information regarding this week’s incidents, it does not indicate whether the antiaircraft missiles struck were in the vicinity of the facility in question. However, on Feb. 1, a US official told Agence France Presse that Israel had struck “surface-to-air missiles on vehicles” as well as an “adjacent” military complex “on the outskirts of Damascus” believed to be “housing” chemical agents. Similarly, McClatchy reported, based on comments from unnamed Israeli intelligence officials, that the antiaircraft missiles “were on a military base” in Jamraya when they were struck. Both reports appear to confirm a Jan. 30 report in the Wall Street Journal that suggested the antiaircraft missiles “may have been close to a military facility” when hit.
According to the US Department of the Treasury, the SSRC is the Syrian government’s body “responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the missiles to deliver them.” In addition, the activities of the SSRC are said to “focus substantively on the development of biological and chemical weapons.” In September 2010, Brigadier General (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel, then the director of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau at Israel’s National Security Council, said that “[t]he international community must send a signal that next time the institute [SSRC] supports terrorism, it will be demolished.”
On Feb. 2, Syrian state television aired footage purporting to show the damage caused by Israel’s airstrikes, but there is no independent confirmation that the footage is of the SSRC facility or that it was taken in recent days. Additionally, the damage seen in the video is extremely limited, and TIME reported that the facility had been “flattened.”
On the same day, former Israeli national security adviser Major General (ret.) Giora Eiland, reportedly confirmed that Israel was responsible for the strikes in Syria, and said Israel’s action was “the right decision, despite all the risks.” The following day, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a conference in Munich that “I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago … But I keep telling frankly that we said, and that is another proof that when we say something we mean it.”
Meanwhile, during a visit to Syria, senior Iranian official Saeed Jalili pledged full support to Damascus. “We will give all our support so that Syria remains firm and able to face all the arrogant (Western powers’) conspiracies …. The Israeli aggression and arrogant international forces have tried to take revenge by attacking the resisting Syrian people,” Jalili said. On Feb. 3, Bashar al Assad thanked Jalili for Iran’s support and said that “Syria is capable of confronting current challenges and repelling any aggression targeting the Syrian people,” according to a report in state-owned SANA.
While Iran offered support to Syria, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blasted Syria’s government for not yet responding. “Why didn’t Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?” Davutoglu asked. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan similarly slammed Israel as he said that its actions were “unacceptable.”