Parts of Syria constitute a region where erosion had done its worst, an area of more than a million acres of rolling limestone country between Hama, Alleppo, and Antioch. Archaeologists have found in this man-made desert more than 100 dead settlements. These were not cities, but villages and market towns. The ruins of these towns were not buried. They were left as stark skeletons in beautifully cut stone, standing high on bare rock. Here, erosion had done its worst. If the soils had remained, even though the cities were destroyed and the populations dispersed, the area might be repeopled again and the cities rebuilt. But now that the soils are gone, all is gone.
Hama, with a population of 1.4 million, is Syria's fourth largest city, behind -Aleppo (4.2 million), Damascus (pop. 4 million) and Homs (1.6 million), but larger than other cities such as Idleb (1.3 million), al-Hasakeh (1.2 million), Dayr al-Zur (1.1), Latakia (0.9 million), Dar'a (0.9), al-Raqqa (0.8), and Tartous (0.7). By 2006 the Syrian-Iranian Industrial Committee, co-chaired by both countries' ministers of industry, was focused on the continuous strengthening of economic and commercial relations between the two countries. By the middle of 2006 Iran's Industry Minister stated that his country was carrying out 16 different major industrial projects in Syria valued at more than $1 billion. The much-touted $198 million Iranian cement plant in Hama was expected to begin experimental operations on 15 November 2006.
By the late 1990s about 40 percent of the total-wheat area in Syria was grown on irrigated land, which was increasing due to the drilling of additional wells and implementation of irrigation projects in northeastern Syria. The major wheat growing areas are the northeast, central (Province of Hama), and to a lesser extent, in southern Syria.
The first and by far only reported Syrian employment of a chemical warfare agent took place in 1982, in a conflict between Islamic insurgents of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Shiite Alawi Muslim sect, which with just a tenth the country's population had ruled Syria for three decades under the President Hafez al-Assad. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Syria's Muslim Brotherhood sought to destabilize and unseat the Hafez Assad regime through political assassinations and urban guerilla warfare. In February 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood ambushed government forces who were searching for dissidents in Hama. Several thousand Syrian troops, supported by armor and artillery, moved into the city and crushed the insurgents during over two weeks of bloodshed. When the fighting was over, perhaps as many as 7,000 to 35,000 people lay dead, including an estimated 1,000 soldiers. In addition, large sections of Hamah's old city were destroyed. Lethal cyanide gas was reportedly used by the Syrian regime in the slaughter of Sunni residents of the city of Hama. Use of hydrogen cyanide is unsubstantiated, but reports in the 1980s suggested that hydrogen cyanide was used by the Syrian government against the uprising in Hama.
Four chemical weapons production sites have been identified by some analysts, one located just north of Damascus, and the second near the industrial city of Homs. The third, in Hama, is believed to be producing VX agents in addition to sarin and tabun.
Many sources repeat the report that two brigades of Scud-C (with 18 launchers each) have been deployed 25 km east to Hama. The number of missiles attributed to each launcher is atypical. The two missiles per launcher are far fewer than is common, with other countries typically assigning 10 missiles to a Scud launcher to economize on expensive launching vehicles.
In 1992 it was reported that Syria was constructing plants to manufacture solid fuel for its M-9 missiles and liquid fuel for its Scuds in the city of Hama.
By 1997 some reports suggested that China had assisted Syria in the modernization of Scud-B missiles, with North Korea and Iran (with Chinese assistance) participating in constructing underground facilities near Aleppo and Hama for the joint production of Scud-C missiles (under North Korean technology and M-9 missiles under Chinese technology).
In September 1997 Yediot Aharanot published an article on Syrian missile capability by Harold Hough, an American researcher who specializes in intelligence deciphering of satellite imagery. This analysis suggested that the bases of the two Syrian brigades of new Scud C missiles were located 25 kilometers from the city of Hama, on the road to as-Salamiyah. This site may contain the new Scud-C acquired from North Korea in 1991. Hough concluded that there were 36 launchers on this site, many more than had been anticpated at a single site. Countries with Scuds generally maintain a 10:1 ratio between missiles and launchers. Assuming that the Hama base has about half of Syria's missiles, the ratio is 2:1 in terms of launchers and missiles.
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On 13 April 2007, citing Israeli intelligence sources, the Jerusalem Post reported that Syria had built a massive missile production facility at al-Hamma, "surrounded by more than 30 hardened concrete bunkers that house multiple launchers and missiles." On 30 April 2007 Arye Egozi provided additional details in a report in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. He reported that Syria had constructed a large underground missile complex which he referred to as a "missile city." He stated that the complex housed hundreds of ballistic missiles and their launchers, as well as "30 reinforced underground concrete bunkers, production facilities, development laboratories, and command posts." Egozi's report claimed that the facility held 200 340-km-range Scud-B missiles, 60 600-km-range Scud-C missiles, and an unspecified number of North Korean-made 700-km-range Scud-D missiles. Egozi reported that Syria had chemical agent warheads for some or all of the missiles, which were stored separately from the missiles, outside the missile complex.
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