IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz 390 (R).
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Israel could face a large-scale conflict in the aftermath of an attack against
Syria’s chemical weapons, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Tuesday,
while stressing that the weapons were still under President Bashar Assad’s
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman backed up Gantz’s assessment,
saying Tuesday that the transfer of chemical weapons from Syria to Hezbollah was
a clear justification for war, and in such a case Israel will act “decisively
and without hesitation or restraint.”
Speaking to the Knesset’s Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee, Gantz said that the dilemma for Israel was
identifying the correct moment to take action to destroy the chemical weapons
and prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorist groups like
“The [Syrian military forces] are guarding it and have even
increased security so it will not fall into rogue hands, although this does not
mean it will stay that way,” Gantz said. “In the end though there will be a
dilemma – to operate in an isolated way, which means we might miss the critical
moment, or operate broadly in a way that we could find ourselves very quickly in
a larger-scale conflict that anticipated.”
Gantz was understood to be
referring to two options – either to use force to prevent a specific transfer or
to destroy all of the known chemical weapons facilities before such a transfer takes
Speaking at a press conference at the EU-Israel Association
Council meeting in Brussels, Liberman said it was no secret that chemical
weapons leakage to Hezbollah is Israel’s “biggest concern today.”
Syrian transfer of chemical and biological weapons to Hezbollah is a “red line
for Israel,” Liberman said, adding that Israel has “enough information” about
“their desire and attempt” to gain chemical and biological arms.
our point of view this is a clear casus belli,” he said, using the Latin phrase
meaning a justification for war. “We will act decisively and without hesitation
or restraint. It will be a completely different ballgame, and we hope for the
understanding and cooperation of the international community.”
the Knesset that ongoing Syrian military defections were “feeding” the rebellion
and were having a negative impact on the Syrian military. Predictions are that
over 12,000 soldiers and officers have already defected including a number of
“It is not just that they do not have commanders, but it
will also impact the soldiers’ performance over time,” he said.
in the day, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic Security Bureau Amos Gilad
rejected Syrian opposition reports claiming that Assad was moving his chemical
“At the moment, the entire non-conventional weapons
system is under the full control of the regime,” Gilad told Israel
Turning to the bombing of a tourist bus in Bulgaria last week that
killed five Israelis, Gantz said Israel will find the way to retaliate and
restore its deterrence to prevent additional attacks in the future.
response will come and will be done responsibly,” he said.
it was clear that preventing the use of biological and chemical weapons was a
major issue for the international community.
While both Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have warned in recent days
that Israel would not tolerate the transfer of chemical weapons to Hezbollah,
Liberman’s remarks were the bluntest indication to date that Jerusalem would
view such a move as a reason to go to war.