Israel’s Mossad have been accused of assassinating a top Syrian scientist over the weekend. The secret service, which was ranked the world’s leader in assassinations having carried out 800 operations in the last decade, grabbed the headlines once again for the killing of Aziz Azbar, head of the Scientific Research and Studies Centre in Masyaf, also known by its French acronym CERS.
On Sunday a pro-government Syrian paper accused the Mossad of being behind the blast which also killed Azbar’s driver. Both Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Hezbollah accused Israel of assassinating the high-level scientist shortly after the bombing took place.
It’s believed that the deceased had close ties with Al-Assad as well as the Iranian regime and, according to British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the unit being used for chemical weapons development. 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.
Intelligence official quoted in the New York Times today said that Israel had been tracking Azbar for years, and had wanted to assassinate him over his prominent role in Syria’s weapons programme even before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. He said it was the fourth time in three years the Mossad has assassinated an enemy weapons engineer in a foreign country.
Israeli sources are reporting that the country’s intelligence suspected Azbar of leading a classified weapons development programme called Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, and was busy re-building an underground weapons factory to replace the one said to have been destroyed by Israel last year.
The Israeli agency, which has gained international notoriety, often boasts about the number of kills it makes on an annual basis. Its director recently said that the agency carries out thousands of operations in “enemy countries every year”.