Ya'alon: No sign Syria may use WMDs against Israel

Vice premier says effective deterrence ensures that Syrian regime will not use chemical weapons against Israel.

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon 370 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon 370
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
There is no sign the Syrian regime might use chemical weapons against Israel, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Sunday in an interview with Israel Radio.
“Over the past decades Syria has armed itself with missiles and chemical weapons,” Ya’alon said, adding that due to the state’s effective deterrence, the Syrians have thus far not used their weapons against Israel.
“On these matters, we have to be prepared to protect ourselves, by ourselves,” he said.
He added: “At this time, we see no sign that this weaponry is being pointed at us.”
Ya’alon declined to comment on a London Sunday Times report that special IDF units are operating in Syria to locate chemical weapons stockpiles.
Israel and NATO countries say Syria has stocks of various chemical warfare agents at four sites. Some officials have voiced concern that Assad could attack the Jewish state with its arsenal in a last stand to rally support from the Arab world.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that Washington was worried an “increasingly desperate” Assad could use chemical weapons against rebels or lose control of them.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, US President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary- General Anders Fogh Rasmussen all issued harsh statements last week warning Assad against using deploying such weaponry.
Netanyahu said, “We are monitoring closely, along with the international community, the events in Syria with regard to the chemical weapons stockpiles.”
He said he “heard the important statement made by President Obama on this matter and I agree, these weapons cannot be used or transferred to terrorist organizations.”
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Rasmussen said last week that any such act by the Syrian government would provoke an immediate international response.
“The possible use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable for the whole international community,” Rasmussen told reporters. “If anybody resorts to these terrible weapons, then I would expect an immediate reaction from the international community.”
And Obama said “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”
Meanwhile, US and Russian officials gave their commitment to a political solution for the deepening Syrian conflict, a United Nations envoy said on Sunday, but Moscow dismissed speculation it was preparing for Assad’s exit.
With rebels now fighting on the doorsteps of Damascus, Assad’s forces kept up their now daily artillery strikes and air raids on eastern suburbs as well as some rebel-held districts on the capital’s outskirts.
UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met the US and Russian deputy foreign ministers in Geneva for the second session of tripartite talks in less than a week, apparently in response to rising violence that now threatens to engulf Damascus.
“All three parties reaffirmed their common assessment that the situation in Syria was bad and getting worse,” a statement from Brahimi said. “They stressed that a political process to end the crisis in Syria was necessary and still possible.”