Israeli jets have bombed a Syrian military facility believed to be linked to President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons programme.
The 2am attack on the Syrian Scientific Research Centre in the central province of Homs, near the Mediterranean coast, left two dead.
Jets were heard flying over Lebanon overnight, with reports the strikes were carried out over Lebanese air space.
A statement released by the Syrian army warned against the “dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region”.
The US has accused the SSRC of helping to develop the sarin gas used in an attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in April that killed 87 people.
The strikes came a day after the United Nation Commission of Inquiry announced they had an “extensive body of information” indicating the Syrian regime was responsible.
Israel has conducted air strikes on military positions inside Syria and against suspected arms shipments believed to be headed to Lebanon’s Shia militia Hizbollah, which is fighting alongside Assad’s forces, nearly 100 times during the six-year war.
However, experts say the nature of Thursday’s target was “exceptional”.
Amod Yadlin, the former Israeli intelligence chief, said the raid sends three messages: “That Israel won’t allow for empowerment and production of strategic arms. Israel intends to enforce its redlines despite the fact that the great powers are ignoring them. And that the presence of Russian air defense does not prevent airstrikes attributed to Israel.”
The strikes follow a series of statements by Israel in recent weeks accusing its arch-enemy Iran of seeking to establish itself in Syria and of building a weapons factory.
They fear an emboldened Iran and Hizbollah may direct the missiles at Israel once the war winds down in Syria.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said strikes also hit a military camp next to the facility that was used to store ground-to-ground rockets and where personnel of Iran and its ally, Hizbollah, are stationed.
“There are Iranian experts using the research centre there. Hizbollah also uses the facility,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory.