Israel Reacts With Horror to Chemical Attack in Syria

Syria, Israel, chemical, gas
A man breathes through an oxygen mask as another man receives treatments, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria, on Tuesday. (Reuters/Ammar Abdullah)

The alleged chemical warfare against civilians in Syria provoked shock and outrage Tuesday in Israel, where the attack was vociferously condemned as a crime against humanity and there were calls for intervention to stop the Assad regime.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the “shocking pictures” of atrocities from Idlib need to “shake every human being.”

“Israel strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons in any situation, especially against innocent civilians,” he added. “Israel calls on the international community to fulfill promises made in 2013, and to remove chemical weapons from Syria.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett urged Netanyahu to convene a special meeting of the security cabinet to discuss both the humanitarian concerns and the security implications for Israel.

Bennett asserted that “systematic genocide [is] being carried out in Syria” and that the use of chemical weapons against civilians requires Israel’s security cabinet to “rethink its stance.”

Syria, Israel, chemical, gas, Yadlin
Amos Yadlin (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin gave probably the strongest response, declaring it is time for Assad to “pay for his war crimes,” adding, “another chemical attack and the world stays silent.”

Israel “should lead a clear ethical agenda against Iran-Assad-Hezbollah war crimes,” he wrote. The use of chemical weapons concerns Israel not only ethically, but strategically as well, he said, adding that former U.S. president Barack Obama left a void in 2013 when he did not enforce his “red line” in Syria against the use of chemical weapons.

Calling for a determined military response, Yadlin said: “We are not clean from the fact that 200 kilometers from our border things are happening that as Jews and Israelis it is forbidden for us to allow to happen. I think the right thing that should happen tonight is that the same planes that attacked in Idlib will disappear, and be hit not by soldiers that come on the ground, but there is precise weaponry that you can send from afar.”

Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog condemned the attack. “It is a murderous regime that lost its humanity,” said Herzog. “The United States and the world should not stand with indifference against those horrific images; they should take the proper measures to stop this madness.”

Herzog called on President Donald Trump — “as the leader of the free world” — to lead an active opposition and protect the innocent victims.”

“Giving legitimacy to Assad’s regime is effectively supporting it,” he added. “Their crimes are unacceptable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli (Likud) also said there must be an international response. “Those [Assad] forces are brutally murdering innocent people,” she said. “Israel brings up in every international forum the necessity to fight the use of chemical weapons.”

Likud minister-without-portfolio Ayoub Kara accused the United Nations of “egregious” hypocrisy for inaction against chemical warfare in Syria while it repeatedly condemns Israeli housing construction in Yehudah and Shomron.

“Human beings, among them women and children, are murdered in a chemical attack in Syria and the voice of the U.N. falls quiet. Where is the U.N. secretary general who condemns [Israel’s] intention to build homes for Jews evacuated from their homes?” Arutz Sheva quoted him as saying.

Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement: “The world cannot be silent in the face of the horrific massacre in Syria and allow this devastation to repeat itself. The UN must act immediately to put an end to the use of any chemical weapons and ensure their removal from Syrian territory. This is the UN’s true purpose and it must fulfill this fundamental responsibility.”