Senior officials: Assad in full control of WMDs

Gantz says Syrian regime has beefed up security of its chemical weapons to prevent them falling into the wrong hands.

July 24, 2012 14:29
2 minute read.
IDF soldier fits child with gas mask

IDF soldier fits child with gas mask 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/David Silverman)


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Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad are still in control of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal and have recently beefed up security to prevent its proliferation to rogue actors, two of Israel's top security officials said Tuesday.

Speaking to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, IDF Gantz said that the dilemma for Israel was identifying the correct moment to take action, if needed, to destroy the chemical weapons and prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

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He also warned that Israeli action against the chemical weapons could lead to a larger-scale conflict than originally planned.

“The [Syrian military forces] are guarding it and have even increased security so it wont fall into rogue hands although this does not mean it will stay that way,” Gantz said. “We need to take into consideration what will remain after we act and whose hands it will fall into.”

Earlier Tuesday, Defense Ministry Diplomatic-Security chief Amos Gilad told Israel Radio that Israeli intelligence shows Assad's regime is in full control of its non-conventional weapons stocks, adding that Hezbollah has no such weapons.

Gilad said that while Israel must remain alert and on top of the situation, there is no reason for panic. Syrian opposition reports from earlier in the day claiming that Assad is moving his chemical weapons stocks, he added, are not based in reality.

The Syrian regime has moved its stockpile of chemical weapons to airports on its borders, AFP quoted rebels as saying Tuesday, just one day after the Assad regime warned it could use the unconventional weapons against any foreign intervention into the country.

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"We reveal that Assad has transferred some of these weapons and equipment for mixing chemical components to airports on the border," a statement from the Free Syrian Army said. "We in the joint command of the FSA inside the country know very well the locations and positions of these weapons."

The rebels said they believed Assad would not use the weapons against Israel. "The regime that has not fired a single bullet against Israel during the course of three decades is certainly not going to use chemical weapons against that country," the FSA statement said.

In the Knesset, Gantz said that ongoing defections were “feeding” the rebellion and were having a negative impact on the Syrian military. Predictions are that over 12,000 soldiers and officers have already defected, including a number of senior officers.

“It is not just that they do not have commanders but it will also impact the soldiers’ performance over time,” he said.

Turning to the bombing of a tourist bus in Bulgaria last week which killed five Israelis, Gantz said that Israel will find the way to retaliate and restore its deterrence to prevent additional attacks in the future.

“The response will come and will be done responsibly,” he said.

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