Syrian Chemical Weapons on the Brink

YERUSHALAYIM -
An Israeli soldier seen during a military exercise in the Golan Heights, where tensions with Syria have increased due to the insecure status of the latter’s chemical weapons arsenal. (Flash90)
An Israeli soldier seen during a military exercise in the Golan Heights, where tensions with Syria have increased due to the insecure status of the latter’s chemical weapons arsenal. (Flash90)

Hizbullah has deployed hundreds of armed men to Syria to form encampments ringing the country’s chemical and biological weapons arsenals preparatory to seizure, Hamodia’s senior military correspondent A. Pe’er reported on Tuesday.

Concern in Israel has mounted, and daily meetings are being held at the highest echelons to decide if and when intervention will be necesssary to keep the weapons of mass destruction from falling into terrorist hands. Israeli officials have indicated that the IDF stands ready to implement contingency plans.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the options available for dealing with the crisis “are between bad, bad, and worse.” He made the comment at a meeting with a three-member bipartisan Congressional delegation on Monday.

Israel Air Force Chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel warned Tuesday that “Syria is undergoing tectonic changes. Given its massive arsenals, Israel may find itself dealing with unconventional weapons on its borders.”

Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter, who characterized Syria as a chemical weapons superpower possessing the world’s biggest stockpile, said Israel was not alone in monitoring the situation. Other countries are also worried, though Israel was “one of the leading worried countries because of its proximity.”

Dichter noted that uncertainty regarding whether or to what extent President Bashar Assad remains in control further complicates matters.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who has already met with Netanyahu twice this week about Syria, stressed in an Israel Radio interview the coordination between the two countries, to meet the region’s security challenges.

“There are two dangerous possibilities regarding Syria,” Shapiro said. “Either the regime will use chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or will transfer the chemical weapons to Hizbullah or other extreme organizations. We want to prevent either of those possibilities from taking place, and we are watching the situation closely.”

Meanwhile, signs of heightened security on the Israeli side of the border were evident. Air Force flyovers were unusually frequent in the northern skies, and two Iron Dome batteries were stationed this week near the Syrian border, one near Haifa, the other in the mountains of the Galil.

According to the Syrians, its Scud-D missile has a range of up to 750 kilometers (466 miles), meaning it can hit almost any target in Israel. The missile can carry some 1,000 kilos (about 2,200 pounds) of explosives. Theoretically it can be armed with chemical agents. It is estimated that Syria possesses between 300 and 500 of these missiles.