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MIDEAST >Israel hits Syria site reportedly used for chemical weapons

BEIRUT/JERUSALEM - Reuters

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The Syrian army said Israel targeted a military site in Hama province early on Sept. 7 which a war monitor said could be linked to chemical weapons production. 

The airstrike killed two soldiers and caused damage near the town of Masyaf, an army statement said. It warned of the "dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, said the strike hit a Scientific Studies and Research Centre facility, an agency which the United States describes as Syria's chemical weapons manufacturer.

The strike took place the morning after U.N. investigators said the Syrian government was responsible for a sarin poison gas attack in April. 

Syria's government denies using chemical weapons and in 2013 it promised to surrender its chemical weapons programme, which it says it has done. 

The Observatory said strikes also hit a military camp next to the centre that was used to store ground-to-ground rockets and where personnel of Iran and its ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah group, had been seen more than once. 

An Israeli army spokeswoman declined to discuss reports of a strike in Syria. Israeli officials have in the past admitted that Israel has repeatedly struck weapons shipments believed to be bound for the Hezbollah, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, without specifying which ones.

In an interview in Haaretz last month upon his retirement, former Israeli air force chief Amir Eshel said Israel had struck Syrian and Hezbollah arms convoys nearly 100 times in the past five years. 

Israel sees a red line in the shipment to Hezbollah of anti-aircraft missiles, precision ground-ground missiles and non-conventional (chemical) weapons.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a brief war in 2006 and both have suggested that any new conflict between them could be on a larger scale than that one, which led to the deaths of more than 1,300 people. 

Hezbollah has been one of Assad's most important allies in the war and last month its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said he had recently travelled to Damascus to meet the Syrian president. 

Israel is conducting military exercises in the north of the country near the border with Lebanon. 

The Syrian army statement said the Israeli strike, which it said took place from inside Lebanese airspace, had been made in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

September/07/2017

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