The Israeli Air Force carried out an air strike targeting a chemical weapons’ facility/research centre identified as the al-Talai facility and a military storage facility in Hama province in Syria.
Syria’s army command reported that the air strike came around 2.42 am (2342 GMT) from inside Lebanese airspace, near the western town of Masyaf which according to military analysts hosts a branch of the government agency responsible for developing and producing unconventional weapons and precision missiles. Two Syrian soldiers were reportedly killed in the attack.
According to certain reports, the attack was launched at 2:30 a.m. on targets located in central Syria, in the area of Hama, and also targeted several weapons convoys that were en route to Hezbollah strongholds in the area.
The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a monitoring group, said that a military storage camp next to the Masyaf research centre was used to store surface-to-surface rockets and that personnel from Iran and terrorists owing allegiance to the Hezbollah were spotted at that location in the past.
Even before the outbreak of the war in Syria, the al-Talai centre was on the Israeli radar. The director of the Israeli national security council’s counter terrorism bureau had called for its destruction in 2010 as it is reported to have provided weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah.
Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, said Hezbollah had received rockets from the production facility in the past.
Israeli Defence Force (IDF), as is always the case, declined to comment on the strike.
A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation freely, confirmed that the Israelis carried out the strike. The United States had no involvement in it and was assessing the situation, the official said.
Israel and Russia maintain open communication lines and a "mechanism" to prevent their air forces from coming into conflict with one another. It was not clear whether Thursday's strike was coordinated with Moscow, and there was no immediate comment from the Russians.
The attack was a message to the major powers and all the other players in the Middle East that Israel would go to any extent if its security was undermined. According to Amos Harel the Attack may have been a signal to the United States and Russia that Israel wants its security interests taken into account.
In a meeting with Russian President Putin in August, Prime Minister Netanyahu had said that Israel was prepared to act alone to curb the growing Iranian foot print in Syria. Israel had opposed a cease fire in parts of Syria which was brokered by the United States and Russia on the grounds that the agreement did not do enough to keep Iran and its proxies away from Israel’s borders.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed recently that Iran is building sites in Syria and Lebanon for the manufacture of "precision-guided missiles" with the aim of deploying them against Israel.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said “We will do everything to prevent the existence of a Shiite corridor from Iran to Damascus,” while declining to comment directly on the air strike in an interview on Israeli radio. He said Israel wasn't “looking for adventures, and we don't want to be dragged into this fight or another.”
The September 7 air raid was seen as a message to both Russia and Iran that Israel can strike anywhere in Syria. It was also a rare instance of Israel striking a Syrian government facility rather than an arms shipment and reminiscent of an Israeli airstrike that destroyed a suspected, partially constructed nuclear reactor in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour exactly 10 years ago.