Killed Syrian Aide Gave Anti-Aircraft Missiles to Hizbullah

Top Syrian presidential aide Mohammed Suleiman, assassinated nine days ago, had supplied advanced weaponry to Hizbullah.

Hana Levi Julian ,

SA-8 Gecko 9K33 "Osa"
SA-8 Gecko 9K33 "Osa"
Israel News Photo: (file)

Top Syrian presidential aide Brigadier-General Mohammed Suleiman, assassinated at the beginning of this month, reportedly supplied Hizbullah terrorists with the advanced SA-8 anti-aircraft missile system, according to The Times of London.

Suleiman, 49, was a key person in President Bashar Assad’s regime, “more important than anyone else” according to the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. In a report published last week, the newspaper called Suleiman “senior even to the defense minister,” and said, “He knew everything.”

As operations officer, Suleiman was responsible for national security, and for the security of Assad’s regime. He was also linked to Syria’s dealings with North Korea and Iran, as well as the alleged nuclear facility that was destroyed on September 6, 2007 in a remote section in the northeastern corner of the country. Suleiman was also Syria’s main liaison to Hizbullah.

That all ended when he was quietly killed at dawn on August 2 by a single bullet to the head as he sat in the garden of his summer home near the port city of Tartus in the north. Writing in The Sunday Times, journalist Uzi Mahnaimi noted, “Nobody heard the shot, which appears to have been fired from a speedboat by a sniper, possibly equipped with a silencer. The expertise required to execute such a long-distance sniper murder has led suspicion to fall upon the Israelis.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, however, that Israel had “no direct knowledge and no comment” on the assassination.

During the prime minister’s visit to Paris last month, sources in Jerusalem said Olmert asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy to warn Assad that Syria was “crossing a red line” by sending weapons to the terrorist group in Lebanon.

Last week the Security Cabinet received the latest intelligence report on Syria’s weapons deliveries to Hizbullah – including information on the SA-8.

The system supplied to Hizbullah by Suleiman may have been the inspiration for the group’s announcement last week that it would soon “stop Israeli fighter planes flying over our land.”

The Russian-made SA-8 Gecko (Russian designation 9K33 “Osa”) surface-to-air missile system was originally developed in the late 1960s. It is a highly mobile, low-altitude, short-range tactical system, the first mobile air defense missile system to incorporate its own engagement radars on a single vehicle.

It is slaved to a fully amphibious, six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle (9A33 TELAR) steered by both the front and rear wheels, able to drive up a 60% gradient. The individual SA-8 vehicles are also equipped with their own targeting, tracking, launching and guidance systems.