The Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, assassinated a top Syrian rocket scientist on Saturday using a car bomb, the New York Times first reported Tuesday.
The scientist, Aziz Asbar, led a confidential unit known as “Sector 4” at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center developing cutting edge missile technology designed to further Syria’s efforts to initiate the long range bombing of Israeli cities.
Asbar was killed along with his driver near the research center, which lies in the town of Masyaf and has long been believed to host chemical weapons development. The center has twice been the target of Israeli air attacks in the last year and Asbar himself had previously avoided two Israeli assassination attempts.
The prominent rocket scientist, who reportedly had his own security detail, regularly met with senior Syrian and Iranian government and military officials, including major general Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds force who has led Tehran’s efforts to prop up Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s brutally repressive government.
Israeli officials have refused to comment on the assassination, as is their policy. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, spokesmen for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denied Israeli involvement when confronted by reporters Monday.
“Every day in the Middle East there are hundreds of explosions and settling of scores,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 News. “Every time, they try to place the blame on us. So we won’t take this too seriously.”
Hezbollah and Hamas, however, were quick to blame Israel for the aggression.
“Yet again the Israeli enemy has assassinated one of the greatest Syrian minds,” major Syrian daily newspaper al-Watan said in a commentary on Tuesday.
Mossad has a storied history of assassinating foreign weapons scientists. In the last eleven years alone, its agents have successfully assassinated six Iranians involved in the country’s chemical and nuclear weapons programs. The group also killed a number of Hamas and Hezbollah scientists in recent years.