Syria is unlikely to attack Israel with chemical weapons but Israel is nevertheless on alert for such an occurrence, IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz said on Sunday.
“We hope it will be quiet, but ‘hope’ is not a plan of action,” Gantz said of the Syrian threat, speaking to a group of Jerusalem high school students. “Therefore we are operational… and will be ready for any threat from this direction.”
However, “the likelihood of chemical weapons use by Syria is very low,” Gantz said. “There are defensive solutions and there are offensive solutions [to such a strike],” he added, “but I do not think [chemical weapons] will be the first problem to arise [from Syria].”
Israel has repeatedly said that the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons to the hands of Hezbollah or other Islamic groups as a result of the chaos of the Syrian civil war would cross a “red line” and have to be dealt with.
Last month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror to Moscow for a lightning visit meant to convince the Kremlin to take steps to prevent Syria’s stockpiles from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.
Netanyahu also summoned Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter for a special discussion regarding Syria’s chemical weapons and Israel’s preparedness in facing attacks.
“We must look around us, at what is happening in Iran and its proxies and at what is happening in other areas, with the deadly weapons in Syria, which is increasingly coming apart,” Netanyahu said at the time.
A few days later, Israel reportedly struck a weapons convoy carrying sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons from Syria to Lebanon.