Israel's Syria strike damaged research site: report

Israel's air strike on Syria last week may have damaged the country's main research center on biological and chemical weapons, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Wednesday's air strike targeted surface-to-air missiles and an adjacent military complex believed to house chemical agents, a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A senior US military official told the Times that any damage to the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center was likely "due to the bombs which targeted the vehicles" carrying the anti-aircraft weapons and to "the secondary explosions from the missiles."

The center, located north of Damascus, has been hit by US and other Western sanctions for more than a decade because of its suspected links chemical and biological weapons engineering.

The Israelis had a "small strike package," the official told the Times based on intelligence reports. He was referring to the likelihood of Israel having deployed relatively few fighter aircraft to get past Syria's air defenses.

"They clearly went after the air defense weapons on the transport trucks," the official added.

Earlier, Israel gave its first indirect confirmation of the attack when Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the strike was "another proof that when we say something we mean it."

He told the Munich Security Conference that Israel was loath to see advanced weapon systems fall into the hands of the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah in Lebanon by streaming across neighboring Syria's border after President Bashar al-Assad falls.

Damascus has threatened to retaliate, further fueling fears of a regional spillover of the country's 22-month conflict which the UN says has already left more than 60,000 people dead.