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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Did Israel destroy a chemical weapons facility in Syria?

Arutz Sheva is reporting that Israel's Channel 1 (state-owned) television has confirmed that the IAF did attack targets in Syria last week. Just what those targets were remains a mystery:
Israeli TV Channel 1 said Tuesday that the IDF "definitely carried out an attack" against Syria last Thursday. The attack was meaningful, the channel's military affairs reporter said, and was probably carried out against a large and important target that justified taking this kind of extreme action at such a sensitive time in Israeli-Syrian relations.

The target hit was in the Deir Ez-Zour region in eastern Syria, near the Euphrates river.

The attack was carried out by Israel Air Force (IAF) F-15i jets (The 'i' stands for 'Israel') referred to in Hebrew as Ra'am, or 'thunder.' Anti-aircraft fire from the ground was inefficient, Channel 1 said.
Arutz Sheva also reports that Syria's ambassador to the UN has denied the part of the CNN report that claims that Israeli troops were on the ground in Syria. If the troops were on the ground, it would have been to mark targets and/or to survey damage afterwards.

The map at top left came from the Jerusalem Post. If you look at it, you will see that the IAF jets were fired upon - and apparently fired upon some kind of target - near number 2 on the map. But what the targets were remains a subject of speculation. Clearly, if they were worth attacking given the current tensions with Syria and the risk that this escalates into war, they were important.

Writing at Contentions, Noah Pollak thinks he has an idea:
What did the IAF target? The most obvious answer: weapons in transit from Iran to Hizballah that were of sufficient danger to Israel that the mission, even given the serious risks it entailed, was deemed necessary. Iran and Syria have been supplying Hizballah with weapons for years, and, obviously, it has not been Israeli policy regularly to target such smuggling. In this case, I suspect, the weapons in question were long-range guided missiles that would enable Hizballah to threaten Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Specific target information will probably not be forthcoming, but it looks as though the U.S. is happy with the results of the mission.
I think it was something bigger than that. Long-range guided missiles would probably still be "in transit" to Hezbullah. And recall that the CNN report referred to a "hole in the desert":
But the sources told CNN the military operation, which happened Wednesday into Thursday, may have also involved Israeli ground forces who directed the airstrike which "left a big hole in the desert" in Syria.
This is from Haaretz:
It is still difficult to assess what the ultimate response of the Syrians will be, at least on the basis of the statements being made these past six days. On the one hand, the Syrians warn of the consequences and are angry that no one seems interested in condemning Israel's illegal raid. On the other hand, they are not talking about the "strategic" target that was bombed in their territory - according to Lebanese press. If they admit it, this would be a troubling sign that they are weighing a serious response.
My guess is that they're not talking about the 'strategic target' because there would be damaging political consequences to Syria if the target's identity got out. And Israel isn't talking about it either, because if we talked about it, we'd be admitting that the Syrians may have other targets like the one we destroyed, and we have a gas mask shortage.

This is pure speculation, but I think that what Israel destroyed was a chemical weapons plant, and a pretty major one at that. If you were manufacturing chemical weapons, wouldn't you want to do it in the desert where if there's a leak, you don't kill 10,000 people? If a chemical weapons plant was destroyed, wouldn't that leave a "hole in the desert"? Or, maybe this was the place were the Syrians stored the chemical weapons they got from Saddam and that's why the Americans are so pleased.

Either way, I don't think these weapons were in transport to Hezbullah. This sounds like it was too big for that.


At 4:23 PM, Blogger Yishai said...

There is a rumor that Google Earth gets updated and detailed satellite imagery 6-12 months after the CIA requests them from commercial birds. You can discern the updated imagery by noticing off-colored squares or swaths in otherwise uninteresting places (like desolate Afghanistan mountains). If you surf to the general area of the strike in the map above on Google Earth you will notice one of those high-resolution swaths in an otherwise uninteresting Syrian desert.

Have fun speculating what the isolated buildings/factories in the area are. :)

At 5:02 PM, Blogger Yishai said...

Some interesting sites in that area (Google maps):






At 5:36 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Unfortunately, the URL's were cut off. Can you use html tags?

At 7:51 PM, Blogger Carlos E. Hös said...

Good note.I will posted it in my blog.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger Yishai said...

Some interesting sites in the strike area:

Site 1 - Missile silo? (and a Bedouin trailer park?!)

Site 2 - Oil refinery / Chemical plant?

Site 3 - Another Oil Refinery / Chemical plant?

Site 4 - Empty lot. A lot of these in the area. looks like getting ready for construction or a staging area?

Site 5 - Mini oil refinery? Is there such a thing? Maybe a natural gas well?

Those are my amateur guesses. Any other sites / ideas on their purpose?

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Israel warns Syria, Syria Warns Israel. Lebanon gets bombed. No one ever learns.


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