gas mask, IDF soldier_311.
(photo credit: Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters)
Concern is growing in Israel over the possibility that Syria’s arsenal of
chemical weapons will fall into terrorist hands amid predictions that President
Bashar Assad’s regime will fall in the coming weeks.
Syria is believed to
have one of the most extensive chemical weapon arsenals in the world, reportedly
including sarin, VX and mustard gas.
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The concern partially stems from
Western intelligence indicating that advanced weaponry has already been moved
out of Syria by Hezbollah.
“The same could also potentially happen with
chemical weapons,” a senior defense official explained.
Assad’s regime would fall within weeks, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on
Monday of the new security challenges the IDF would face if that occurs. He said
more than 5,000 civilians had been killed in fighting in Syria and that the
military was having difficulty quelling protests and preventing soldiers from
defecting to resistance forces.
“It is difficult to know what will happen
the day after the Assad family [leaves] but either way it will be a hard blow to
the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah alliance,” Barak told the
Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Concern over the
stability of Syria’s chemical arsenal comes at a time when only about 60 percent
of Israelis are in possession of gas masks. The IDF is currently lacking NIS 1.2
billion to complete the production and distribution of gas masks to the rest of
The Home Front Command and Defense Ministry are in talks with
the Treasury in an effort to obtain the remaining required budget. Last month,
The Jerusalem Post
reported that the distribution of the gas masks will be
suspended in February if the funds are not allocated beforehand.
growing instability in Syria, the IDF’s Northern Command has drawn up a number
of operational responses to a wide range of scenarios that could evolve along
the northern front.
There is concern, for example, that the IDF will face
low-scale and isolated attacks along the border, such as Syrian soldiers opening
fire into Israel. The main objective set down by OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen.
Yair Golan is to respond based on circumstances but to also make a strong
attempt to prevent an isolated incident from escalating into a larger conflict.