Satellite images of suspect sites in Syria 370 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters / Handout)
JERUSALEM - Any sign of Syria's grip on its suspected chemical weapons
slipping as it battles an armed uprising could trigger Israeli military
strikes, Israel's vice premier said on Sunday.
confirmed a media report that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had last
week convened security chiefs to discuss the civil war in nearby Syria
and the state of the country's chemical arsenal.
held on Wednesday, had not been publicly announced and was seen as
especially unusual as it came while votes were still being counted from
Israel's national election the day before, which Netanyahu's party list
Should Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas or rebels
battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad obtain Syrian
chemical weapons, Shalom told Israel's Army Radio, "it would
dramatically change the capabilities of those organizations."
a development would be "a crossing of all red lines that would require a
different approach, including even preventive operations," he said -
alluding to military intervention, for which Israeli generals have said
plans have been readied.
"The concept, in principle, is that this
(chemical weapons transfer) must not happen," Shalom said. "The moment
we begin to understand that such a thing is liable to happen, we will
have to make decisions."
Interviewed separately by Army Radio, Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said Syria was "on the verge of collapse."
asked whether Israel perceived an imminent threat, Dichter said: "No,
not yet. I suppose that when things pose a danger to us, the State of
Israel will know about it."
France, among the most vocal backers
of Syria's rebels, said last week there were no signs Assad was about to
be overthrown since international mediation and crisis diplomacy were
going nowhere. The conflict also appears largely stalemated on the
Syria has loomed large in Israeli rhetoric in recent weeks.
great danger to the world is ... from nuclear weapons in Iran, those
weapons that are built in Iran. It's chemical weapons in Syria falling
into the wrong hands," Netanyahu said in a Jan. 7 speech.
Two days later, Dichter told Israel Radio that monitoring Syria was "the top priority - that is, a very high priority."
Israeli government security adviser told Reuters on Sunday that Syria
had taken new prominence in strategic planning "because of the imminence
of the threat. There the WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) are ready
and could be turned against us at short notice."
the regional stakes, Tehran, among Assad's few allies and itself long
the subject of Israeli war threats over its nuclear program, said on
Saturday it would deem any attack on Syria an attack on Iran.
and NATO countries say Syria has stocks of various chemical warfare
agents at four sites. Syria is cagey about whether it has such arms but
insists that, if it had, it would keep them secure and use them only to
fend off foreign attack.
Syria is widely believed to have built up the arsenal to offset Israel's reputed nuclear weapons, among other reasons.
Netanyahu had sought to burnish his hawkish credentials ahead of the ballot, in which centrist rival made big gains.
government adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu
might have a secondary interest in playing up security threats given
that his rightist Likud-Beiteinu party list suffered surprise election
setbacks and must now seek a new coalition with a constellation of
"But Syria is a serious business, and the people dealing with it in Israel are serious," the adviser said.Yedioth Ahronoth
on December 28 quoted the deputy armed forces commander, Major-General
Yair Naveh, saying that weapons developed for a possible strike on Iran
could have "usefulness for other confrontations in our vicinity,
including in Lebanon and Syria."
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