IDF brass to PM: Syrian rebels on fence with Israel

Netanyahu during tours of Syria border: Israel monitors movement of Syria's chemical weapons, mulling security barrier on border.

Netanyahu surveys Syrian border 370 (photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Netanyahu surveys Syrian border 370
(photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Syrian rebel forces have taken up positions along the border with Israel, with the exception of the Quinetra enclave which is still in the hands of the Syrian army, senior IDF officials told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as he looked out across the Syrian border on Sunday from the IDF outpost on Mount Avital.
“The big question is when the big Syrian flag in Quinetra will be changed,” one IDF officer told Netanyahu, who spent the afternoon in the North and was briefed on the advances the Islamists and Salafists were making in Syria.
Netanyahu, who last week toured the border with Egypt, said Israel was interested in creating a physical barrier with Syria similar to the one recently constructed in the South.
“We are monitoring the changes taking place in Syria, and there are many changes taking place, and they affect Israel’s security,” he said.
The prime minister was updated on the security fence being erected from Mount Avital south to the point where the Israeli, Syrian and Jordanian borders meet on the southern Golan Heights.
“I would like to examine the possibility of extending this fence [north] up to Mount Hermon so that there will be a strong buffer along the length of our border with Syria,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel was also carefully monitoring what was happening beyond the buffer inside Syria, both regarding the rebels taking control and any movement of Syria’s chemical weapons.
“This is not only an Israeli matter,” he said. “We are in close contact with the US on this matter; it is a strategic interest of both countries.”
The New York Times reported last week that Israel’s top military commanders discussed with the Pentagon in November satellite imagery showing what appeared to be Syrian troops mixing chemicals – probably the nerve gas sarin – at two storage sites and filling dozens of 500-pound bombs.
According to the report, this resulted in a “remarkable show of international cooperation” that included a public warning by US President Barack Obama and sharp private messages to Syrian leaders through Russia, Iraq, Turkey and possibly Jordan that stopped the chemical mixing and bomb preparation.
While at the Golan outpost, Netanyahu also fired back at former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who charged Friday night that the Netanyahu government had wasted some NIS 11 billion on “adventurous delusions” with the planning of operations against Iran that “were not carried out and will not be carried out.”
“This is a miserable, irresponsible comment, from someone who wasted billions of shekels on disengagement from Gaza and uprooting Jews, something that brought a rain of missiles onto Israel,” Netanyahu said.
By contrast, he added, his government “invested billions of shekels to strengthen the IDF, Mossad and Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency], and to enhance Israel’s security.”
Netanyahu said that while those responsible for disengagement from Gaza were “trying to mobilize the world against Israel, we are trying to mobilize the world against the Iranian government. Stopping the Iranian nuclear program was and will remain our No. 1 objective.”
Netanyahu, who makes periodic visits to the North, took advantage of the timing following last week’s stormy weather to visit the Ayit nature preserve in the southern Golan, and gazed at the drenched landscaped – still spotted with patches of snow – and was photographed against the background of the now roaring Ayit waterfall.