Israel ‘taking steps’ to counter Syrian chemical weapons threat, Netanyahu says

Noting ‘dramatic developments’ to Israel’s north, PM hails cooperation with US; Defense Ministry official says Syrian WMDs under control ‘for the time being’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a weekly cabinet meeting (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a weekly cabinet meeting (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel was carefully watching developments in Syria, and especially the regime’s sizable stockpile of chemical weapons, which Israeli officials are afraid could be turned against the Jewish state.

“We’re taking steps in order to prepare for the far-reaching changes that are commencing there,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, alluding to recent assessments that President Bashar Assad’s days in power were numbered.

“There are dramatic developments in Syria on an almost daily basis,” he said. “We’re working in cooperation with the United States, and, together with the international community, we’re taking the necessary steps to prepare ourselves for the possibility of changes with a bearing on the sensitive weapons systems in Assad’s hands.”

Amos Gilad, a senior official in Israel’s Foreign Ministry, on Sunday said that, “for the time being,” Syria’s chemical weapons were “under control,” despite the fact that Assad’s been losing ground to the rebels.

Last week, NBC reported that Washington was “huddling” with its allies, including Israel, over how to grapple with the danger, according to CNN. US intelligence, Israeli intelligence and other agencies were “working this problem round the clock,” it said, adding that concern in the region “is growing by the hour.”

The Times of London reported that the US, along with several key allies, is prepared to launch a military intervention in Syria should the Assad government resort to using its chemical weapons against the rebels.

A military source told the Times that US forces could be ready “rapidly, within days,” and implied that the necessary forces were already in the region.

Israel is particularly concerned that Syrian chemical and biological weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used against Israel.

“Together with the international community, we are closely monitoring developments in Syria regarding its stores of chemical weapons…. Such weapons must not be used and must not reach terrorist elements,” Netanyahu said last Tuesday at a forum in Jerusalem.

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