A Syrian military intelligence officer in charge of the army’s “Palestine Department” was assassinated Saturday in the country’s northwest, Arabic media reported.
Ahmad Issa Habib was said to have been shot in the head by unknown assailants in the village of Baarin, west of the city of Hama. Some reports said he was killed in his car, others that he was hit at his home.
According to Israel’s Army Radio, quoting Syrian opposition sources, Habib was the point man in President Bashar Assad’s regime “responsible for the struggle against Israel.”
There was no word on the identity of the shooters or a possible motive.
The reported killing came exactly two weeks after the assassination of a top Syrian chemical weapons and rocket scientist in nearby Masyaf, which some have blamed on Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
Aziz Azbar was killed when his car exploded in Masyaf late on August 4.
Syrian media blamed Israel for that killing, and a senior official from a Middle East intelligence agency later told the New York Times Israel was behind the attack and said his own intelligence agency had been informed of the Israeli operation.
According to the report, Israel believed that Azbar was leading a classified weapons development program called Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, and was busy re-building an underground weapons factory to replace the one said destroyed by Israel last year.
Azbar was working alongside Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite al-Quds Force and enjoyed high-level access to both the Syrian and Iranian governments, the New York Times said.
Azbar and his team were working to begin mass-producing precision-guided missiles by retrofitting SM600 Tishreen rockets. They were also working on a solid-fuel plant for missiles and rockets, a safer alternative to liquid fuel, the report said. The Tishreen is a Syrian version of the Iranian Fateh-110, a missile with a range of 200 kilomenters (125 miles.)