Photo Credit: MEMRI / Al Arabiya, screen grab
Firas Tlass, son of former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, interviewed on the Saudi Arabian Al Arabiya news network in an interview that aired on March 24 and March 25, 2021.

A Syrian businessman says that certain areas in Syria are completely under the control of Iran or Hezbollah, and that President Bashar Al-Assad does not know what is happening there.

Firas Tlass, son of former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, made the remarks on the Saudi Arabian Al Arabiya news network in an interview that aired on March 24 and March 25, 2021. The interview was translated and a clip uploaded to the internet by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute.

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The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has “large offices at Damascus Airport, and they know about everything that is going on there,” Tlass said.

The areas controlled by Iran are used for receiving and transferring weapons and supplies to the Shia Hezbollah terror organization and are disguised as food and equipment shipments for Iranian militias active in Syria, Tlass said.

UPDATED: Rocket Alert Near Dimona, Explosion Heard

Weapons and advanced missile parts are hidden in vegetable trucks and then transferred into Hezbollah-controlled areas in southern Syria and in Lebanon, he added.

“There are areas in Syria that are controlled by Iranian officers. Al-Assad does not know and does not want to know [what goes on there]. There are some areas in the desert… The area between Al-Qusayr and the Syria – Lebanon border is under the complete control of Hezbollah. Hama airport is under complete Iranian control,” he said.

In addition, Tlass said Iran now has complete control over the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, where biological and chemical weapons are created.

“Bashar Al-Assad does not know what goes on in the Jamraya (research center) even though he visited the research center before he became president,” he said.

“When Hafez Al-Assad established this research center, he was striving for a balance of terror with Israel. The research center was developing these [chemical weapons]. They did a brilliant job, I’m sad to say. The brightest Syrian scientists… They all got their training in France and in the West. There was cooperation with Germany and North Korea. Iran entered the fray only lately.”

“The Syrian Scientific Studies Research Center. . . Iran is there and is involved with everything,” Tlass said. “It wasn’t so in the past,” he added. “There was no Iranian involvement there before 2014-2015.

“In my opinion, the Iranians took over the research center so that the Russians would not take it over instead – particularly following the joke of ‘handling over the chemical weapons.’ Of course only a small part of the chemical weapons was handed over, and the rest was redistributed among many depots.

“Of course the Syrian chemical weapons program is operational once again; the laboratories are operational once again.”

Tlass also said Iran has total control over Hama Airport, where the Islamic Republic lands its planes. The weapons (for Hezbollah) are transported in fruit and vegetable refrigerators. “From the end of the tarmac the weapons are transported on to a dirt road that was prepared especially for this purpose,” he said.

“The shipment reaches the Masyaf road and from there, to Tartous, and then directly to Lebanon on the highway. If [these shipments] are known, they can be tracked by satellite, but if they do not know, they cannot.

Two hundred trucks pass there every day, and they cannot detect five vegetable trucks loaded with weapons and advanced missile parts, and the [shipments] reach Hezbollah, be it in Lebanon or in Syria, because Hezbollah is now present on the ground in southern Syria. Its missile units are present on the ground in southern Syria.

Missile Fired From Syria
A long-range missile was fired at Israel at 1:41 am Thursday from Syria; the launch triggered Red Alert sirens in the eastern Negev near the Ara’ra Junction, not far from the location of Israel’s nuclear facility in the southern Israeli city of Dimona.

According to Boaz Golan of the Hebrew-language military site, 0404, a surface-to-air missile was launched by the Syrians at an aircraft.

IDF Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman told reporters that the explosion heard near Dimona was due to the firing of an SA-5 anti-aircraft missile that was fired towards Israel.

A Patriot missile was launched in response but failed to intercept the missile, which continued on until it landed near the Bedouin village of Abu Qrenat, in the southeastern Negev not far from Dimona.

Israel Army Radio reported there were no physical injuries or property damage.

According to the IDF, the missile was aimed at Air Force planes in the Syrian Golan Heights. It should be noted that the range of the ground-to-air missile that was fired was hundreds of miles.

There was no intention to damage the nuclear reactor in Dimona, the IDF said. In response, Israeli military forces attacked the rocket launchers that fired into Israel, as well as Syrian batteries of surface-to-air missiles.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.