An IDF intelligence unit listened in on senior Syrian officials discussing a chemical attack that allegedly took place on the outskirts of Damascus and left hundreds of Syrian civilians dead last Wednesday, a major German publication reported.
According to the report Saturday in Focus magazine, a squad specializing in wire-tapping within the IDF’s prestigious 8200 intelligence unit intercepted a conversation between high-ranking regime officials regarding the use of chemical agents at the time of the attack. The German report, which cited an ex-Mossad official who insisted on remaining anonymous, said the intercepted conversation proved that Bashar Assad’s regime was responsible for the use of nonconventional weapons.
Rebel groups claimed that in Wednesday’s attack as many as 1,300 people were killed in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. The reports were accompanied by a string of grisly photos and videos depicting scores of dead civilians, including children.
An Israeli TV report on Friday claimed that the shells were fired by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, a division under the command of the Syrian president’s brother, Maher Assad.
The nerve gas shells were fired from a military base in a mountain range to the west of Damascus, the Channel 2 report said.
The embattled regime has concentrated its vast stocks of chemical weaponry in just two or three locations, the TV report continued, under the control of Syrian Air Force Intelligence, itself reporting to the president.
The TV report further added that “the assessment in Israel” is that the attack was intended to serve as the possible start of a wider operation.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the situation in Syria couldn’t be allowed to continue.
Netanyahu said that Israel “will always know how to protect [its] citizens” should Syrian weapons be turned on the Jewish state.
“Our hand is always on the pulse,” he said. “Our finger is a responsible one and if needed, is on the trigger. We will always know how to protect our citizens and our country against those who come to injure us or try to attack us.”
Speaking ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that reports of the mass chemical weapons attack outside Damascus point to “a terrible tragedy and a terrible crime.”
“Our hearts go out to the women, children, babies and civilians injured so cruelly by the use of weapons of mass destruction,” the prime minister said.
Israel, like the rest of the world, has refrained from responding to the Syrian crisis in any large-scale way, taking in only a small number of injured Syrians and reportedly carrying out covert air strikes at regime weapons sites. Yet officials have said action must be taken, with most expecting Washington to respond to the attack.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.