Ya’alon: No chemical attack from Syria on horizon

Liberman: "No question" Assad using WMDs against his own people; Erdan: Iron Dome won’t offer protection from missile barrage in future.

May 29, 2013 01:04
3 minute read.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon visits IDF Home Front Command’s base in Ramle

Yaalon at IDF Home Front Command’s base 370. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Israeli intelligence does not foresee a Syrian chemical attack on Israel as a threat on the horizon, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told reporters on Tuesday, during a war drill exercise.

Ya’alon was visiting the IDF Home Front Command’s base in Ramle when he made the remarks.

Asked about the issue of civilians lacking gas masks and the chances of an unconventional attack, Ya’alon said: “This is not the intelligence assessment, since the Syrian regime treats us differently from how it apparently treats its citizens. It is not deterred by its citizens. It is deterred by us. We will continue to be prepared for any development, but we do not believe that someone will try to challenge us in the unconventional field in the foreseeable future.”

During his visit, which occurred on the second day of a national war drill, Ya’alon said he was pleased to see the Home Front Command applying lessons from past incidents, and the close cooperation between it and the emergency services. The Home Front Command will allow civilians to function during wartime, he added.

“Unfortunately, our enemies have in recent years chosen to deliberately strike the civilian population, and therefore this response is needed,” he said.

“We’ve stood up to challenges like this and unfortunately we’ll have to stand up to these tests [again].”

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman expressed certainty during a committee meeting on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad is using chemical weapons against his own people.

“We’ve seen the radical axis cross all red lines,” he said.

“Not only is the Assad regime massacring its own people, there is no question as to whether chemical weapons are being used against Syrian civilians.”

A representative of IDF intelligence said that Assad uses long-range missiles along with chemical weapons as a tactical move. However, the intelligence representative added, Assad has full control of the chemical weapons and their use.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz explained that Assad’s regime continues to be challenged, and his ability to govern rises and falls over time and varies by region. Thus, there is no real progress by Assad or the rebels. Israel is concerned about weapons being transferred from Syria to Hezbollah, but does not want to heat up the northern front, Gantz said at the meeting.

“Our inclination is to cool the atmosphere, even though we passed messages [to stop the weapons transfers],” he explained. “We don’t want combat with Syria, and if we recognize continuous or dangerous shooting, we act to remove the danger.”

The Golan is becoming increasingly unstable, with a rise in the number of terrorism attempts, Gantz added.

“The IDF is developing capabilities and operating concepts for defense, and when it is necessary, we responded by firing,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan warned Israelis that in a future war, the Iron Dome anti-rocket system will not be able to offer a defense against barrages of rockets from the north.

“The public must internalize this,” he said. “In the next conflict, if it occurs and comes from the north, the number of missiles that will fall here will turn into an incident that the Iron Dome can’t cope with.

There will be many projectiles falling in civilian population centers, hence it is enormously important for the public to know how to function. I will draw conclusions for future exercises on how to gain more public participation.”

Liberman also mentioned the Iranian threat at the meeting’s start, saying that Tehran is “running toward an atomic bomb at a crazy pace,” requiring Israel to make decisions and be determined.

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