Avigdor Liberman speaks at the Saban Forum.
(photo credit: SABAN FORUM)
Israel prevented the transfer of chemical weapons to Hezbollah, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday.
“Israel has no interest in intervening in the civil war in Syria. Our policies and our positions are very clear and are based on three red lines: We will not allow any harm to come to Israeli citizens; we will not allow any harm to the sovereignty of the State of Israel; and we will not allow the smuggling of sophisticated weapons or chemical weapons from Syria to Lebanon for Hezbollah,” he said at Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“The State of Israel will make decisions freely regardless of other circumstance,” he said.
Liberman was referring to comments he made
on Wednesday after a suspected Israeli strike on the Mezzeh airbase near Damascus.
Israel, which usually neither confirms nor denies alleged strikes, is “working primarily to protect the security of our citizens, defend our sovereignty, and to try to prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah,” he said.
According to a military source quoted by Syria’s SANA state media, “The Israeli enemy launched at 3 a.m. Wednesday a number of surface- to-surface missiles from inside the occupied territories to the west of Tall Abu al-Nada that landed in the surroundings of al-Mezzeh Airport west of Damascus.”
Syria agreed to dismantle its large chemical weapons stockpiles three years ago, in a Russian-brokered deal following the August 2013 sarin gas attack in the rebel-held Ghouta area outside Damascus, which saw an estimated 1,400 people die, including 400 children.
Over 1,290 metric tons of chemical weapons – including sarin, VX and sulfur mustard, a precursor to mustard gas – were removed from Syria by the international community.
But Israel has raised concerns in the past about the transfer of chemical weapons from the Assad regime to Hezbollah, and is believed to have struck the presumed base of the Syrian Army’s secretive Unit 450, a branch of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center that is at the center of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program north of Damascus.
Western intelligence agencies and Syrian opposition figures alleged that Unit 450 had been dispersing chemical weapons stockpiles around the country as well as to Hezbollah. In 2013, Fahad Masri, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said, “We, along with many other international sources, learned through documents and other evidence about the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Israel is believed to have carried out several attacks targeting Hezbollah terrorists, weapons convoys and infrastructure in Syria since January 2013, preventing what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said would be “game-changing weaponry” falling into the hands of the Islamist group.