Israel’s defense community is “keeping an eye out” for the possibility that Hezbollah has attained chemical weapons in Syria, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said.
Ya’alon was responding to unconfirmed reports that Israel has struck sites in Syria five times in recent weeks, despite the presence of a new Russian missile defense system in the country, during a press conference Monday following a visit with new draftees at the army’s Tel Hashomer enlistment base in Kiryat Ono outside of Tel Aviv.
“We are acting in accordance with needs,” Ya’alon said. “Anyone who infringes on our sovereignty — we act against them. Anyone who attempts to transfer advanced weaponry to terrorist organization, with an emphasis on Hezbollah — we will not allow it.
“We are, of course, keeping an eye out for the possibility that someone has gotten their hands on chemical weapons,” Ya’alon added.
The defense minister insisted that the Russians were aware of what actions in Syria would invite Israeli response and were committed to allowing Israel to take action as necessary.
“Under the agreements we have with the Russians, they act in accordance with their interests; we act in accordance with our interests; and the one doesn’t bother the other,” Ya’alon said.
Prior to the press conference, the defense minister met with a group of thirty or so young men who were in the process of being drafted into the IDF’s Artillery Corps.
During the meeting, Ya’alon again dismissed calls for a large-scale military action in the West Bank, telling the artillerists-to-be that their cannons and missile systems shouldn’t see action in Palestinian cities in the near future.
Since the start of the ongoing violence in Israel, those wanting to appear tough on terrorism have called for a sequel to the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, in which IDF troops and tanks entered Palestinian cities in order to quell the violence that had been pouring out of them in the weeks and months preceding.
Yaalon, who has spoken out repeatedly against the need for such a massive attack, again dismissed such proposals as mere rabble rousing.
“There’s no need for artillery in the West Bank right now, ” Yaalon said.
Though the Artillery Corps’s heavy guns won’t see much action in the West bank, according to the defense minister, the soldiers who man them will.
Though they are not standard infantry soldiers, as trained combat fighters, personnel from artillery batteries, along with tank and home front command brigades, also take part in the IDF’s security operations in the West Bank. And with no end to the current violence in sight, this fresh batch of soldiers will likely also spend time in the West Bank.
“You won’t be bored in your army service,” Ya’alon promised — or warned — the soldiers.