Israel's Mossad have been accused of assassinating a top Syrian scientist over the weekend. An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment.
Intelligence official quoted in the New York Times today said that Israel had been tracking Azbar for years, and had wanted to assassinate him over his prominent role in Syria's weapons programme even before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The attack took place on Saturday night in Masyaf, west of Hama, home to one of Syria's main weapons-development facilities, run by the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center. He was also collaborating with Iranian Maj.
Israel's minister of intelligence says he "welcomes" news that a Syrian scientist was killed by a auto bomb, even as Tel Aviv denies any part in the murder. "Every day in the Middle East there are hundreds of explosions and settling of scores", Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel's Channel 2 News.
If the assassination was carried out by Mossad, it was the latest in a long line of Israeli attacks targeting Syrian weapons capabilities and development.
Asbar headed the Maysaf research center in Hama, which was hit by Israeli air strikes last month and in September previous year, the Observatory said. Israeli warplanes are suspected to have targeted the centre's facility on at least two occasions over the past year, the Times reported.
Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syrian conflict but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it says are deliveries of advanced weaponry to its Lebanese enemy Hezbollah and other Iran-backed forces.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attends an interview with a Greek newspaper in Damascus, in this handout released May 10, 2018.