A preeminent rocket scientist is dead, and Syria says Israel is to blame. The Washington Post describes Aziz Asbar as a research director at Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, and intelligence officials have drawn a line between that center and Syria's chemical weapons program, though Asbar's work was on missiles, not chemical weapons. Indeed, the New York Times describes Asbar as having a mission: "amassing an arsenal of precision-guided missiles that could be launched with pinpoint accuracy against Israeli cities hundreds of miles away." He was killed by a car bomb Saturday night in Masyaf, and Syria was quick to allege Israel's spy agency, Mossad, was behind it.
The remainder of the Times' account is based on an unnamed official with a Middle Eastern intelligence agency; he says Israel had indeed been tracking Asbar over the belief that he led a secret unit called Sector 4 whose missile-development efforts were done in collaboration with Iran. Much of Israel's concern is tied to Iran, which has been assisting the Assad regime, the fear being that the conclusion of Syria's civil war could see those Iranian forces set their sights on Israel. As for Asbar, the Post cites Syrian media reports that he had managed to survive two prior assassination attempts, with the al-Watan daily newspaper declaring "yet again the Israeli enemy has assassinated one of the greatest Syrian minds." The Times offers a history of such attacks. (The actress who was Syria's "scream of hope" is dead.)