Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned that Israel would not tolerate Syria’s use of chemical weapons, nor their transfer into the hands of terrorist groups.
“Together with the international community, we are closely monitoring developments in Syria regarding its stores of chemical weapons,” Netanyahu said at a public diplomacy forum in Jerusalem.
The prime minster’s comments echoed US President Barack Obama’s statement on Monday at the National Defense University.
“Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching,” Obama said. “The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”
“I heard President Obama’s important remarks on this issue and we are of the same mind, that such weapons must not be used and must not reach terrorist elements,” Netanyahu said.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also warned Tuesday that “if anybody uses chemical weapons, I would expect an immediate reaction from the international community.”
Syria is believed to have hundreds, if not thousands, of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, a blistering agent, and the more lethal nerve agents sarin and VX. Syria is believed to possess one of the largest chemical weapons stockpiles in the world.
A NATO official said Tuesday that the military alliance approved plans to deploy Patriot anti-missile systems to southern Turkey to bolster its defense against possible strikes from neighboring Syria. Rasmussen was expected to make the announcement later Tuesday night.
In July, Syria threatened to unleash its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack. The statement was Syria’s first-ever acknowledgement that the country possesses weapons of mass destruction.