Amid growing fears in Israel about Syrian chemical weapons use, National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror was dispatched to Moscow for a lighting visit on Monday to convince the Kremlin to take steps to prevent Syria’s stockpiles from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.
In Moscow, Amidror was reportedly to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other top officials, Israeli daily Maariv reported. Russia, a close Syrian ally, has backed embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad but has begun sending signals of waning support for Damascus.
The chaos of the nearly two-year old Syrian civil war has raised deep concerns in Israel and the West that the chemical weapons stockpiled for decades under the Assad regime could make their way into the hands of rogue elements such as Hezbollah or al-Qaeda.
Israel also reportedly fears that advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry, supplied by Russia to Syria, could be acquired by Hezbollah, reducing Israel’s air and armor superiority against the Shiite terrorist organization based in south Lebanon.
On Sunday, Israel moved two Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to the north of the country, positioning one in Haifa for the first time.
The IDF said the move was a routine re-positioning, but it came on the heels of a security meeting held by top officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss the Syrian threat.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel could take preventative action if it looked like Syria was attempting to use or transfer the chemical weapons.
Also on Sunday, Netanyahu summoned Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter for a special discussion regarding Syria’s chemical weapons and Israel’s preparedness.
“We must look around us, at what is happening in Iran and its proxies and at what is happening in other areas, with the deadly weapons in Syria, which is increasingly coming apart,” Netanyahu said at his weekly Sunday cabinet meeting.
“Something is happening for sure,” said Channel 2 security analyst Ehud Yaari, speaking to the New York Times on Sunday. “Even in Israel, which is usually tense, and the normal nervousness that you have in this country, this is exceptional now.”
Yaari also said that there was heavy fighting between regime forces and rebels near chemical weapons facilities outside of Damascus and Aleppo.
On Sunday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the chances of Assad’s survival were “smaller and smaller” with each passing day.