|Gas masks 521.(Photo by: REUTERS)|
Ya'alon: We don't believe Assad has used chemical weapons
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
Strategic Affairs minister says Israel is following developments in Syria closely, but has seen no proof supporting opposition claims of WMD use; Gulf states demand international action in Syria.
Claims by Syrian rebels that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on multiple
occasions in recent weeks lack evidence, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe
Ya’alon said on Tuesday.
Rebel sources said Assad’s forces had used gas
in Homs on Monday, resulting in seven deaths and several serious injuries in a
rebel-controlled neighborhood of the city.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for
the Free Syrian Army said the regime had used deadly chemical weapons in no
fewer than 18 attacks recently.
Accompanying the reports were photographs
of wounded people in the hospital from Monday’s clashes, and Arabic media said
some of the wounded suffered from breathing difficulties, severe nausea and loss
of muscle of control.
But Ya’alon, who is also vice prime minister, said
the claims lacked corroboration.
“We have seen reports from the
opposition. It is not the first time. The opposition has an interest in drawing
in international military intervention,” he told Army Radio.
stand now, we do not have any confirmation or proof that [chemical weapons] have
already been used, but we are definitely following events with concern,” he
Responding to the images of the wounded, he said, “I’m not sure
that what we’re seeing in the photos is the result of the use of chemical
weapons. It could be other things.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights gathered activist accounts on Sunday of what it said was a poison gas
attack in Homs.
The Observatory, a Britishbased group with a network of
activists across Syria, said those activists spoke of six rebel fighters who had
died after inhaling smoke on the front line of Homs’s urban
The organization said it could not confirm that poison gas
had been used and called for an investigation.
Earlier this month, Syrian
Deputy Foreign Minister Feisal Mekdad told Sky News that he “did not know”
whether Syria possessed chemical weapons.
Either way, he vowed, they
would never be used against Syrian civilians.
In July, Ahmad Slash, a
Syrian member of parliament and deputy chairman of the foreign affairs
committee, told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, “These biological and chemical weapons
are intended for a confrontation with the country’s enemies.”
“We have advanced weapons. Why lie to the people? We have them.
what’s known as the balance of power. You have nuclear weapons, and we have
advanced biological weapons.
We counter might with might, but we’re
keeping this for the end.”
On Sunday, senior Israeli defense official
Amos Gilad said Syria’s chemical weapons were still secure even though Assad had
lost control of parts of the country.
Reuters contributed to this report.