Chemical weapons in Syria: Israel on high alert

The civil war in Syria has brought Israel to a high state of alert in recent days, as the Israeli government becomes increasingly concerned that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could lose control of his country’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

 

The Israeli defence minister has cut short a visit abroad, and a number of urgent cabinet meetings and the deployment of two “Iron Dome” rocket intercepting systems in northern Israel, show that the government feels the threat is extremely imminent.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli air force (IAF) have been put into the highest state of alert, and are fully prepared to act if the threat increases. In other words, if the Syrian army shows signs that it is planning to use chemical weapons against the rebels in Syria, or if chemical weapons appear to be in danger of falling into the hands of terror groups in Syria or Lebanon, Israel will act swiftly and decisively.

There is no doubt that Israel is fully prepared to launch pre-emptive strikes to prevent Syria’s chemical weapons from reaching Lebanon’s Hezbollah or al-Qaeda inspired groups. Officials have been explicit about this, and all signs show that they are describing very real situation.

President Assad has been clinging to power during a 24-month civil war in Syria and, as I recently wrote here, the IAF has repeatedly expressed deep concerns about the stockpile of chemical weapons in country. The most explicit warning came from the commander of the IAF, Major General Amir Eshel. He was not very specific about what his pilots might do to prevent the failing Syrian regime from using chemical weapons as a last resort, but said that all preparations were being made to deal with the potential threat.

Israel is closely monitoring Syria for any change in the delicate situation, and Israeli concerns have risen to new levels since the end of last week. If there are any alarming signs, the green light for action will be given in minutes. Israel is not prepared to take any chances.

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