The IDF confirmed the deployment of Iron Dome missile defense batteries in the North on Sunday, amid an escalation in the Syrian civil war and concerns over Syria’s sizeable chemical weapons falling into radical Islamic hands.

An army spokesman confirmed that batteries had been deployed to the North, including one in the Haifa area, but claimed the move was “routine.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad is in possession of large quantities of deadly Sarin and mustard gas compounds, as well as VX nerve agents.

Some of the compounds can be affixed to Scud missiles as chemical warheads. The chemicals can also be placed in specialized artillery shells, or dropped from the air.

Syrian rebels clashed with forces loyal to Assad in southwest Damascus on Sunday, forcing the closure of the main highway to the southern town of Deraa, activists said.

The fighting came as United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos visited Syria ahead of a UN aid conference which aims to raise $1.5 billion for the millions of people made homeless, hungry and vulnerable by the 22-month-old conflict, which the UN says has killed 60,000 people.

Defense officials have noted in recent months that the crumbling of Syria presents a formidable threat to national, regional and global security, a threat that is developing right on Israel’s doorstep.

The presence of disorganized armed militias – some of them affiliated with hardline Islamistjihadi movements – in a land that hosts what some analysts consider the largest number of chemical weapons in the world creates a clear danger, according to officials. The concern is that rebel fanatical elements or Assad’s close ally, Hezbollah, may try to raid chemical weapons storage facilities.

Reuters contributed to this report. •

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