PM: Damascus using arms banned by int'l conventions

Netanyahu says J’lem watching Syria carefully, warns that IDF’s "long arm" will strike those who threaten Israel.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at IAF ceremony 370 (photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at IAF ceremony 370
(photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Syrian pilots were using against their own people weapons forbidden under an international convention, and warned that Israel would act if necessary against any threat.
Speaking at a ceremony for new air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in the Negev, Netanyahu did not specify which weapons he was referring to. In recent days there have been reports that the Syrian air force has used phosphorous bombs, and unconfirmed reports from anti-regime rebels that lethal chemical weapons have been used.
“Everyone today sees what is happening in Syria,” the prime minister said. “The Syrian air force is bombing the country’s citizens. They are killing and injuring hundreds each day. They don’t desist from using any means, including weapons that are forbidden under international treaties. Israel is following these developments in Syria, and will do everything against that – or any – threat.”
Netanyahu told the cadets they had now become a part of “Israel’s long arm.”
“We have strengthened many muscles and tendons in that arm,” the prime minister said. “Israel’s hand is extended in peace to those who want peace, and those who threaten us should know that our long arm will strike forcefully to defend the State of Israel.”
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Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, meanwhile, said he was not overly concerned at the moment that Syrian President Bashar Assad would use his chemical weapon stockpiles against Israel.
Rather, Ya’alon told Israel Radio that Jerusalem’s primary concern – and the concern of many others in the world – was that there would be “leakage” of the chemical weapons to Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations, or that Assad would use the weapons against his own people.
Ya’alon put the number of people killed in the Syrian civil war at more than 50,000. This would put the number of dead at 0.24 percent of Syria’s 21 million people. In terms of America’s population, that would mean about 740,000 killed.
Ya’alon said that concern over chemical arms finding their way into the hands of terrorist organizations and the possibility that Assad could use them against his own population was shared by all countries in the region. He would not, however, confirm reports that Netanyahu had secretly traveled to Jordan in recent days to talk about the Syrian situation.
“There are strategic relations between Israel and Jordan,” he said. “There are not a few joint interests, such as [concern about] extreme Islamists, [combating] terrorism, the situation in Syria, and the Iranian threat.”
One diplomatic official said Israel must act discretely with Jordan so as not to complicate matters for King Abdullah II.
For Abdullah, the official pointed out, high-profile ties with Israel did not win him any popularity points on the street.
According to Ya’alon, the US was leading the diplomatic campaign to prevent Assad from losing control of his chemical weapons or using them in his war with the rebels, and was also readying for the possibility of intervention in Syria if Assad did not heed the warnings.
“I don’t know if they are discussing putting troops in – there are other ways to prevent [the use of the chemical weapons],” said Ya’alon, a former chief of staff, without elaborating.
Another former chief of staff, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, said Israel needed to prepare for the day after Assad, and to take into consideration the rise to power of extremist elements led by Iran, which is “up to its neck in Syria, arming and fueling the Assad regime.”