Israel blamed in death of Syrian rocket scientist

Times:
A senior Syrian rocket scientist blown up by a car bomb on Saturday was assassinated by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, according to a new account quoting informed Middle East intelligence sources.

Aziz Asber, who was killed along with his chauffeur after leaving home near the Masyaf missile and chemical weapons base in northern Syria, was head of a secret unit code-named “Sector 4” at the Scientific Studies and Research Centre.

The centre, which also has a base near Damascus, is the main agency for developing chemical weapons and new missiles for the Assad regime.

Mr Asber’s death was claimed by the Abu Amara brigade, a rebel group based in the northwest province of Idlib, most of which has joined the formerly al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham force.

However, although the Abu Amara brigade has claimed previous operations behind regime lines, doubt was immediately cast on whether it had a sufficiently sophisticated apparatus to kill Mr Asber. His role meant that he would operate with a close security detail.

The new report, which said Mossad had been tracking him for some time, appeared in The New York Times and was co-written by Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist and author widely regarded as the leading expert on Mossad’s assassination programme.

Yisrael Katz, the Israeli intelligence minister, welcomed Mr Asber’s killing but declined to comment on the report. “I can say that assuming the details of this man’s activities are correct and he was engaged in developing chemical weapons and longer-range missiles capable of hitting Israel, I certainly welcome his demise,” he said.
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He is believed to have played a key liaison role between the Syrian, Iranian and North Korean missile programmes. Masyaf is also said to be developing missiles for Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia which has a large arsenal of rockets targeting Israel.

According to the report, he was working directly with General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s overseas-focused al-Quds Brigade, to develop a new type of precision missile and a solid-fuel plant. Solid-fuel rockets are more reliable than liquid-fuel ones.
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With his ties to the Iranian missile program, it is easy to see why Israel would see it in its interest to stop him.  Those who are a threat to Israel have a tendency to wake up dead.

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