Israel worried Syria weapons going to terrorists

Concern partially stems from Western intelligence indicating chemical weaponry has been moved out of Syria by Hezbollah.

By
January 3, 2012 03:13
2 minute read.
gas mask, IDF soldier

gas mask, IDF soldier_311. (photo credit: Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters)

 
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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.

While predicting 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 public.

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.

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Amid the 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.

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