* Repeated blasts at Syrian military site on Wednesday
* Residents say cannot tell whether from aerial strike
* Syria accuses Israel, rebels say they hit the site
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
AMMAN, Jan 31 The force of the dawn attack on a
Syrian military site outside Damascus on Wednesday shook the
ground, waking nearby residents from their slumber with up to a
dozen blasts, two sources in the area said.
"We were sleeping. Then we started hearing rockets hitting
the complex and the ground started shaking and we ran into the
basement," said a woman who lives adjacent to the sprawling
Jamraya site north-west of the Syrian capital.
The resident, who declined to be named because of the
sensitivity over a reported strike in the area by Israel on
Wednesday morning, said she could not tell whether the
explosions which woke her were the result of an aerial attack.
Details of the strike remain sketchy and, in parts,
contradictory. Syria said Israeli warplanes, flying low to avoid
detection by radar, crossed into its airspace from Lebanon and
struck the Jamraya military research centre.
But diplomats, Syrian rebels and regional security sources
said the planes hit a weapons convoy heading from Syria to
Lebanon, apparently destined for President Bashar al-Assad's
ally Hezbollah, and the rebels said they - not Israel - hit
Jamraya with mortars.
Another source who has a relative working inside Jamraya
reported that a building inside the complex had been cordoned
off on Wednesday employees believed it had been hit. Flames
could be seen rising from the area after the attack, they said.
"It appears that there were about a dozen rockets that
appeared to hit one building in the complex," the source, who
also asked not to be identified, told Reuters.
"The facility is closed today," he added.
Israeli newspapers on Thursday quoted foreign media for
reports on the strike. Journalists in Israel are required to
submit articles on security and military issues to the censor,
which has the power to block any publication of material it
deems could compromise state security.
The Jamraya research centre is in the town of Jamraya, 8
miles (13 km) from the border with Lebanon, surrounded by
heavily militarised areas including several army bases and
artillery sites on the Qasioun mountain range, which overlooks
Damascus proper 3 miles (5 km) to the east.
Diplomats in the Middle East familiar with Jamraya described
it as a crucial element of Syria's missile programme, and say it
also has a chemical weapons facility. There have been no
suggestions any chemical weapons were hit in Wednesday's strike.
People who visited Jamraya recently say it is surrounded by
walls 3 to 4 metres high and guarded by plain-clothed agents.
They say that recently shabbiha militia forces loyal to
Assad deployed around it, and tanks moved into a residential
housing section of the facility.
Asked about rebel attacks in the area, they said there had
been some attempts to target the tanks with mortars but were not
aware of any rebel activity in the last few days.
Three months ago rebels killed 21 elite Republican Guards in
an ambush on an army minibus in the district of Qudsayya, just
south of Jamraya, activists said.
A statement from the joint military council of the Free
Syrian Army described Jamraya as "one of the biggest shabbiha
strongholds", where it said Iranian, Russian and Hezbollah
members were helping develop chemical and other weapons
including 'barrel bombs' used by Assad's air force.
The rebels fired "six 120 millimetre mortars... a big part
of (the complex) has been destroyed", it said.
(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny; writing by Dominic
Evans; editing by Philippa Fletcher)