Israel will do everything in its power to prevent a Syrian chemical weapons attack on it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, a day after reports emerged that he had met with Jordan’s king to discuss a preemptive strike on Damascus’s chemical arsenal.
Speaking at the Air Force Flight Academy graduation ceremony at Hatzerim Air Base, Netanyahu said the Israel Defense Forces was following the situation in Syria closely and preparing itself for any possible scenario.
“We all see what is happening in Syria — the Syrian Air Force has attacked hundreds of Syrian civilians and they do not hesitate to use any means,” said Netanyahu. “Israel is monitoring developments in Syria and will do its utmost against this threat and against all threats.”
On Wednesday, an Arabic daily reported that Netanyahu had recently traveled to Jordan to discuss destroying Syria’s large chemical weapons stockpile, but so far Amman is reluctant to put its weight behind such action.
Citing an anonymous source, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi reported that Israel suggested precision strikes on President Bashar Assad’s chemical arsenals, but that the idea was nixed due to the potentially large number of Syrian civilian casualties, as well as the threat to the environment.
A senior Israeli official confirmed talks took place, but did not offer more details.
Israel has grown increasingly worried over Syria’s chemical weapons, which it fears may be turned on Israel by a desperate Bashar Assad, or by rebels should they gain control of the arsenal. Last week opposition activists reported that bombs filled with a deadly mystery gas had been dropped on Homs, a rebel stronghold.
Netanyahu told the graduating pilots that they would be at the forefront of protecting the country.
“Israel’s hand is extended in peace to those who seek peace, and to those who threaten us — they should know that our long arm will strike forcefully in order to defend the State of Israel,” he said.
Earlier this month, air force commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said the IAF was fully prepared to prevent a chemical weapons attack from Syria, if necessary, by destroying the massive stockpiles in Syria’s possession.
“We are required to be prepared for all threats and possible scenarios, unconventional weapons too,” Eshel said. “This is an issue for the countries’ decision makers. We possess the relevant capabilities and if it is decided to apply them, we will know how to carry out the orders.”