Iran is using Syria as a testing ground and carefully watching how the world responds to Damascus’s use of chemical weapons against its own people, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

This was Netanyahu’s first public comment on reports of the massacre on Wednesday of hundreds of Syrian civilians by President Bashar Assad’s forces, using chemical weapons.

“The reported use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians is terribly disturbing,” he said. “If verified, it will be a horrible addition to the roster of tragic crimes committed by the Syrian regime against the people of Syria.”

The prime minister, in an allusion to Iran’s nuclear program, said the events in Syria further prove that the world’s most dangerous regimes must not be allowed to gain possession of the world’s most dangerous arms.

Netanyahu characterized as “absurd” a situation where UN investigators, who are in Damascus to investigate possible previous use of chemical weapons, were prevented by the Syrian regime from going to the newly afflicted area.

International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz went even further than Netanyahu in criticizing the UN efforts, saying that its investigation of Assad’s use of chemical weapons was a “joke.”

“To now investigate claims of the use of chemical weapons a half-a-year, and a year ago, and not investigate what happened last night, is ridiculous,” Steinitz told Israel Radio.

He took the world to task for doing “nothing significant” over the last two years to end Assad’s slaughter of his own people.

“We are dealing with the cruelest of regimes,” he said, “and the world meets, investigates and pays lip service.”

He said Israel’s policy was not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the neighboring Arab states, “except when there are cases of an immediate threat to Israel as the democratic, Jewish state located precisely in the middle of the turmoil.”

Steinitz said that according to Israel’s intelligence estimates, chemical weapons were used on Wednesday in Syria, and it would not be the first time.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee head Avigdor Liberman told Radio 103 in Tel Aviv that it was “beyond a doubt” that Assad used chemical weapons.

According to Liberman, the rebels have become adept at taking soil and clothes samples and passing them on to intelligence agencies in the West.

The latest incident, which apparently involved the use of Scud missiles, he continued, represented the crossing of all red lines. Israel would be wise, Liberman advised, to take note that even in this case, the UN Security Council is unable to make a decision and that “the international community is avoiding taking responsibility.”

The silence on Syria shows the worth of international guarantees on Israel’s security, he said. He added that the first lesson for Israel is that “in the moment of truth Israel can rely only on itself.”

Asked about Israel’s moral responsibility to take action, Liberman said that “Israel is not standing on the side and not doing anything,” and cited the medical treatment the state has provided several dozen Syrians injured over the last few months of the fighting.

“We took in injured; we are in contact with the international community on Syria,” he said. “First and foremost we have to worry about Israel and its citizens, and we need to be paying close attention and be ready for any development.”

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