WASHINGTON — The Israeli attack last week on a Syrian convoy of anti-aircraft weapons appears to have damaged the country's main research center for work on biological and chemical weapons,, the New York Times reported Sunday, citing unnamed U.S. officials who are sorting through intelligence reports.
While the main target of the attack Wednesday appears to have been the weapons and their launchers — which the Israelis feared were about to be moved to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon — video shown on Syrian television appears to back up assertions that the research center north of Damascus was also damaged.
That complex, the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, has been the target of U.S. and Western sanctions for more than a decade because of intelligence suggesting that it was the training site for engineers who worked on chemical and biological weaponry.
A senior U.S. military official, asked about reports that the research center had been damaged, said he believed that the buildings were destroyed by the bombs that targeted the vehicles carrying the antiaircraft weapons, and from the secondary explosions from the missiles.
There is still much that is not known about the attack, and there have been contradictory descriptions of it since it was carried out. Initial reports suggested that the antiaircraft missiles were hit near the Lebanese border. Subsequent reports, both in Time magazine and the Israeli press, suggest there were multiple attacks conducted at roughly the same time.