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 control.
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, if needed, to destroy the chemical weapons and prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorist groups like Hezbollah.
He also warned that Israeli action against the chemical weapons could lead to a larger-scale conflict than originally planned.
“They [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. “We need to take into consideration what will remain after we act and whose hands it will fall into.”
Gantz said 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 senior officers.
“It is not just that they do not have commanders but it will also impact the soldiers’ performance over time,” he said.
Earlier 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 weapons stocks.
“At the moment, the entire non-conventional weapons system is under the full control of the regime,” Gilad told Israel Radio.