Israel Keeping Eye on Syria's Chemical Weapons

Israel becoming increasingly concerned that Syria’s chemical weapons will fall into the hands of Hizbullah or rebel terrorists.

Elad Benari ,

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
AFP photo

Israel is becoming increasingly concerned that Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons will fall into the hands of terrorist groups such as Hizbullah or into the hands of terrorist groups among the rebels trying to topple President Bashar Al-Assad.

On Sunday the IDF said that the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system has been installed in northern Israel, due to the escalating civil war in Syria.

Iron Dome anti-missile batteries have been deployed in multiple locations, including in the Haifa area, military officials said.

As well, the Haaretz newspaper reported on the weekend that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had convened on Wednesday a special discussion on issues of defense, attended by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the head of the Mossad, the Military Intelligence chief, the commander of the Israel Air Force, and some of the members of his Cabinet. The meeting centered on the ongoing civil war in Syria and included a discussion of Syria's chemical weapons.

Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said on Sunday, “We have been monitoring for a long time the possibility that chemical weapons will fall into the hands of extremist rebels, or worse, into the hands of Hizbullah.”

He added, “This is a very disturbing and dangerous situation, and there is consensus and cooperation among all countries in the free world that this should be prevented.”

Some reports have indicated that Assad’s forces have already used non-lethal chemical weapons against rebels.

However, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told the Le Monde newspaper last week that the matter had been investigated but that the checks did not produce evidence.

Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, which dates back to the 1970s, is the biggest in the Middle East, but its precise scope remains unclear, according to analysts.

U.S. officials recently said there was evidence that Assad's troops had not only moved deadly sarin gas that might be used against rebels, but also that its binary components, usually stored separately, had been combined and placed into bombs for use.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said that the United States is increasingly focused on how to secure Syria's chemical weapons if Assad falls from power.

Panetta said he would not consider sending ground troops into the war-torn country, even to secure chemical sites, but he left the door open to some U.S. military presence if Assad's downfall is followed by a peaceful transition.