Amid reports of a devastating chemical weapons offensive in Syria, Labor Party MK and former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Wednesday called the ongoing civil war there “a holocaust” and accused the international community of indifference to the Syrian people’s suffering.
“If I were a Syrian citizen, i’d be disgusted with the European and international silence,” Ben-Eliezer said in an interview with Army Radio. “I don’t understand it.”
Ben-Eliezer’s comments came following reports by Syrian activists close to the country’s opposition claiming that up to 1,300 people were killed in a poison gas attack by regime forces outside Damascus.
News of the attack came as UN chemical weapons inspectors were beginning a probe of chemical weapon use in sites around Syria.
The former defense minister went on to claim that the international community, rather than deal with the Syrian situation, was fixated on criticizing Israeli policies.
“Syria is using chemical weapons — there’s a holocaust going on there now — and the Europeans only have time to hit us [Israel], and the UN only has time to issue decisions against us,” he continued.
“It’s just a disaster what’s happening. Listen to me: It’s a holocaust, simply a holocaust, it’s just terrible,” he said.
Ben-Eliezer said that Syrian President Bashar Assad was undeterred from using chemical weapons because his actions haven’t been met with an appropriate response from international leaders, specifically President Barack Obama, who has said chemical weapons use would be a “red line” for his administration.
“For two years he [Assad] has been slaughtering people and nobody tells him to stop,” the former defense minister said. “Obama warns him not to cross the red line and use chemicals weapons — or else. And then, what?”
Asked why he thought US intervention in the Syrian crisis has been limited so far, Ben-Eliezer said Washington was shackled by its diplomatic concerns.
“Obama is part of a multi-power world,” he said. “He has the Russians and the Chinese holding him back.”
Ben-Eliezer declared that the world powers were erring in not taking a firmer stance on the unrest in the Middle East.
“I’m sorry to say this, but the Americans aren’t reading the map [of the Middle East] correctly, nor are the Europeans,” he said.
The White House said it was “deeply concerned” by reports of the chemical attack, focusing its comments on the need for Syria to facilitate a United Nations investigation.
“The United States strongly condemns any and all use of chemical weapons,” Obama’s deputy press secretary, Josh Earnest, said in a statement. “Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable. Today, we are formally requesting that the United Nations urgently investigate this new allegation.
“The UN investigative team, which is currently in Syria, is prepared to do so, and that is consistent with its purpose and mandate. For the UN’s efforts to be credible, they must have immediate access to witnesses and affected individuals, and have the ability to examine and collect physical evidence without any interference or manipulation from the Syrian government.”
Syria is said to have one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin, though it has never admitted possessing such weapons.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.