Israel “will have to strike” at Syrian weapons shipments if they are being transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon amid the collapse of the Assad regime, a prominent Israeli military analyst said on national television Friday night.
Roni Daniel, of Israel’s most-watched news station Channel 2, made the prediction immediately after Defense Minister Ehud Barak had indicated warily in two TV interviews that Israel was preparing options to ensure Syrian weapons did not reach the pro-Iranian Hezbollah.
Barak, who toured the Israeli border with Syria on Thursday, told Channel 2 he was worried that Hezbollah would try to get its hands on Syria’s anti-aircraft missiles, ground-to-ground missiles and chemical weapons.
Telling his interviewer that he wanted to be very careful about what he said, the defense minister said on Channel 2 that Israel was considering the situation and how it might play out.
Slightly more specific on a rival station, Channel 10, Barak said he had told army chiefs to step up “intelligence preparations and prepare what is necessary so that… we will be able to consider carrying out an operation.”
He said Israel was watching out for “the possible transfer of advanced weapons systems, mainly anti-aircraft missiles or heavy ground-to-ground missiles, but there could also be a transfer of chemical capabilities from Syria to Lebanon.”
American officials were said in recent days to be seeking to press Israel not to launch military strikes at any such weapons shipments.
Israel “will have to strike” if it sees Syrian weaponry being transferred to Lebanon, said analyst Daniel, noting that Syria had “huge” supplies of sarin nerve agent, cyanide, and mustard gas.
Daniel was promptly asked: “Wouldn’t that start a war?” He downplayed the probability, though acknowledging that it could cause some cross-border violence.
Israel’s border with Syria has been largely quiet since the 1973 war, but Barak said there was now a danger of that changing. He spoke of hearing the machine-gun fire and seeing conflict unfolding just across the border when he visited on Thursday.