(JTA) — Israel’s Mossad was responsible for the assassination of one of Syria’s most important rocket scientists, The New York Times reported.
Aziz Asbar was killed by a car bomb on Saturday night — at least the fourth assassination attempt by Israel in three years against an enemy weapons engineer on foreign soil — The New York Times reported late Monday, citing an unnamed senior official from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency.
Syria and Hezbollah both blamed Israel for the attack, but a rebel group affiliated with al-Qaida, the Abu Amara Brigades, claimed responsibility in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it was involved in the assassination of Asbar in Masyaf, where Syria’s military research organization maintains one of its most important weapons-development facilities.
Spokesmen for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman did not respond to requests for comment from The Times. But Liberman rejected the accusations in an interview on Israeli television.
“Every day in the Middle East there are hundreds of explosions and settling of scores,” he told Channel 2. “Every time, they try to place the blame on us. So we won’t take this too seriously.”
An unnamed official representing Syria and Iran’s military alliance told The Times he believed that Israel had wanted to kill Asbar because of the prominent role he played in Syria’s missile program even before the country’s civil war broke out in 2011.
According to The Times, Asbar had his own security detail as he led a top secret weapons development unit called Sector 4, and was at work building an underground weapons factory to replace one destroyed by Israel last year. He also was believed to be developing missiles accurate enough to target Israeli cities hundreds of miles away and was working with the Iran’s Quds Force to develop precision-guided weapons.
The unnamed official told the newspaper that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, had been tracking Asbar for a long time.