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Israel hits Syria target reportedly tied to chemical weapons

Air strikes in Hama come day after UN blames Assad government for April sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhun
Israeli F-15 fighter jet takes off in Negev desert last year (AFP/file photo)

Syria's army said Israel targeted one of its positions in Hama province early on Thursday, which a war monitor said is a branch of a government agency accused by the US of producing chemical weapons.

The attack comes a day after a UN probe blamed the government of Bashar al-Assad for a sarin gas attack on the Idlib town of Khan Sheikhun in April.

It is the first time the UN has directly apportioned blame for chemical weapons use in the Syrian conflict.

Syrian government was behind sarin gas attack in April: UN probe
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A Syrian army statement said the air strike killed two people and caused material damage near the town of Masyaf. 

The Syrian army said: "Israeli warplanes at 2.42am fired a number of missiles from Lebanese air space, targeting one of our military positions near Masyaf, which led to material damage and the deaths of two members of the site."

It warned of "dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said the strikes hit a Scientific Studies and Research Centre facility, the agency the US describes as Syria's chemical weapons manufacturer.

The UN blamed Assad for the Sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhun in April (AFP)

The Observatory also said that a military storage camp next to the centre was used to store ground-to-ground rockets and that personnel of Iran and its allied Lebanese Hezbollah group had been seen there more than once.

It gave the total number of dead and wounded in the strike as seven.

Israeli officials have in the past admitted to attacking weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, without specifying which ones.

Masyaf also produces chemical weapons and explosive barrels that have killed thousands of Syrian civilians

- Amos Yadlin, former Israeli spy chief

An Israeli army spokeswoman declined to discuss reports of a strike in Syria, saying the army does not comment on operational matters.

Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, tweeted that the reported attack was not routine and targeted a Syrian military scientific centre.

"The facility at Masyaf also produces chemical weapons and explosive barrels that have killed thousands of Syrian civilians," Yadlin said in the tweet.

There was no independent confirmation that this was the target, but the United Nations has said in the past that the Syrian government has carried out chemical weapons attacks, which Damascus denies.

Israeli officials have also previously said that Israel and Russia, another Assad ally, maintain regular contacts to coordinate military action in Syria.

Jets flying over Lebanon overnight broke the sound barrier and Lebanese media reported that some Israeli jets had breached Lebanese airspace.

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