Hezbollah is blaming Israel for the deaths of five nuclear engineers, four Syrians and one Iranian, on Monday in Damascus.
Initial Syrian reports said that four Syrians were killed in an ambush, but later Syrian state television admitted that a fifth scientist, an Iranian, was also among the victims.
The five were killed after gunmen opened fire on their bus in an area not affected by the fighting between rebel groups and Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.
"We can confirm that five scientific experts were martyred by terrorists as part of the ongoing plots of the Zionist entity," an unnamed Hezbollah commander based in Beirut said in a report published Tuesday by the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Hezbollah commander said that he saw a pattern in the method used to kill the scientists, and that of the 2013 assassination of high-ranking Hezbollah operative Hassan Laqis, who was shot by an unknown gunman at close range outside a suburban Beirut safe house – a killing also blamed on Israel.
He believes that Syrian rebels, acting on Israel's behalf, were behind the killing of the scientists.
"We have long determined that the Zionist entity works closely with a number of the so-called rebel groups for anti-Hezbollah and anti-Syrian regime operations," he was quoted as saying.
A Syrian government newspaper, Al-Watan, reported Monday that the scientists were headed to the Scientific Research Center near the Syrian capital when they were attacked. It suggested the Al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front was behind the assault.
Syrian facilities suspected of being used for military and nuclear research have been targeted in the past.
Last May, a military and scientific research center in Damascus was struck in an attack attributed to Israel. In January, Syrian officials accused Israel of striking another scientific research center northwest of Damascus.
In 2007, Israel bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor — an attack confirmed by U.S. officials. Israel has never commented on the incident.
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