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      Report: Syria Airstrike Targeted Chemical Weapons Center

      Lebanese news website reports that the target of an airstrike near Damascus was a chemical weapons center.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 1/31/2013, 5:44 AM

      IAF F-15
      IAF F-15
      Israel news photo: Flash 90

      Conflicting reports continued on Wednesday night about an air strike in Syria, what exactly was targeted and who carried out the attack.

      Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that Israel had staged an air raid on a military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus.

      While the statement by the Syrian military claimed that the target was “a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” a Lebanese news website on Wednesday night quoted a Syrian source as saying that the target of the strike was a chemical weapons center.

      The source told the Lebanese site that four security guards were killed in the attack and that the blast could be heard as far as Damascus.

      The Lebanese television network Al-Manar, which belongs to the Hizbullah terrorist group, reported Wednesday evening that four Israeli warplanes had taken part in the airstrike.

      Meanwhile, the rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria denied the reports that Israel had attacked the research center, claiming that they were the ones who attacked the facility.

      The rebels posted a video allegedly documenting a series of blasts at the center, but the video could not be authenticated.

      Earlier reports said that Israel had struck a convoy carrying SA-17 missiles, among other things. The SA-17 is a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile.

      It is not clear at this point which report is the more accurate one, and what actually happened. If the target was indeed a chemical weapons center, it may have been a strike to prevent Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal from falling into the hands of Hizbullah or into the hands of terrorist groups among the rebels.

      Reports on the weekend indicated that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had convened a special discussion on issues of defense, attended by defense officials and some of the members of his Cabinet. The meeting centered on the ongoing civil war in Syria and included a discussion of Syria's chemical weapons.

      Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said on Sunday, “We have been monitoring for a long time the possibility that chemical weapons will fall into the hands of extremist rebels, or worse, into the hands of Hizbullah.”

      He added, “This is a very disturbing and dangerous situation, and there is consensus and cooperation among all countries in the free world that this should be prevented.”

      Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, which dates back to the 1970s, is the biggest in the Middle East, but its precise scope remains unclear, according to analysts.

      Some reports have indicated that Assad’s forces have already used non-lethal chemical weapons against rebels.