The Prime Minister’s Office neither confirmed nor denied a report in a
London-based pan-Arabic newspaper saying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
paid a secret visit to Jordan recently, apparently to discuss the situation in
“We are not relating to the report,” a spokesman in the Prime
Minister’s Office said of the story in Al-Quds Al- Arabi that indicated
Netanyahu met with Jordanian King Abdullah II and claimed the focus of the trip
was concern about the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria’s beleaguered
President Bashar Assad.
Senior officials quoted in the Israeli media
confirmed the visit Wednesday night.
In recent weeks, Netanyahu has
expressed strong concern about Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, saying that
Jerusalem was in close coordination with the US and others in the international
community regarding the problem. Jordan is believed to be one of the countries
with which Israel is consulting about the matter.
The Arabic paper’s
article followed by about three weeks a report by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey
Goldberg who quoted intelligence officials “in two countries” as saying Israel
proposed twice to the Jordanian government a plan to “take out many of Syria’s
chemical weapons sites.”
He said the Jordanians have so far turned down
the Israeli requests, quoting an official as saying this was both because of
concern of the fallout on Jordan, since some of the chemical sites are near the
Jordanian border, and also concern that Syria might suspect Jordanian complicity
in any such Israeli attack.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi did not say way when
Netanyahu’s visit to Jordan took place. If true, it would not be the first time
the prime minister has paid a secret visit to the Hashemite Kingdom, having gone
there secretly at least two times to meet Abdullah since taking office in
Intense international concern about the stockpile of chemical
weapons in Syria comes as the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
issued a report on Wednesday saying some 45,000 people have been killed since
the anti-Assad revolt began in March 2011.
Assad on Wednesday sent a
senior diplomat to Moscow to discuss proposals to end the conflict convulsing
his country made by international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Syrian and Lebanese
Brahimi, who met with Assad on Monday and plans to hold a
series of meetings with Syrian officials and dissidents in Damascus this week,
is trying to broker a peaceful transfer of power, but has disclosed little about
how this might be done.
Past peace efforts have floundered, with world
powers divided over what has become an increasingly sectarian struggle between
mostly Sunni rebels and Assad’s security forces, drawn primarily from his
Shi’ite-rooted Alawite minority.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal
Makdad flew to Moscow to discuss the details of the talks with Brahimi, said a
Syrian security source, who would not say if a deal was in the works.
Lebanese official close to Damascus said, however, that Makdad had been sent to
seek Russian advice on a possible agreement.
He said Syrian officials
were upbeat after talks with Brahimi, who met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid
Moualem on Tuesday, but who has not outlined his ideas in public.
is a new mood now and something good is happening,” the Lebanese official said,
asking not to be named. He gave no details.
Russia, which has
given Assad diplomatic and military aid to help him weather the uprising, has
said it is not protecting him, but has fiercely criticized any foreign backing
for rebels and, with China, has blocked UN Security Council action on
A Russian Foreign Ministry source said Makdad and an aide would
meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mikhail Bogdanov, the Kremlin’s special
envoy for Middle East affairs, on Thursday, but did not disclose the nature of
Syrian army shelling killed about 20 people, at least eight of
them children, in the northern province of Raqqa, a video posted by opposition
Rebels relaunched their assault on the Wadi Deif
military base in the northwestern province of Idlib, in a battle for a major
army compound and fuel storage and distribution point.
Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of contacts in Syria to
monitor the conflict, said a rebel commander was among several people killed in
Wednesday’s fighting, which it said was among the heaviest for
The military used artillery and air strikes to try to hold back
rebels assaulting Wadi Deif and the town of Morek in Hama province further
south. In one air raid, several rockets fell near a field hospital in the town
of Saraqeb, in Idlib province, wounding several people, the Observatory
As violence has intensified in recent weeks, daily death tolls have
climbed. The Observatory reported at least 190 had been killed across the
country on Tuesday alone.
The head of Syria’s military police changed
sides and declared allegiance to the anti- Assad revolt.
“I am General
Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, head of the military police. I have defected
because of the deviation of the army from its primary duty of protecting the
country and its transformation into gangs of killing and destruction,” the
officer said in a video published on YouTube.
A Syrian security source
confirmed the defection, but said Shalal was near retirement and had only
defected to “play hero.”