Israel would “have to act” if the Syrian regime collapses and there is a risk Syria’s chemical weapons and missiles could fall into the hands of militant groups, the Jewish state’s prime minister warned today.
The deteriorating situation of President Bashar Assad’s regime is stoking Israeli fears that militants affiliated with Lebanon’s Hezbollah group or the al Qaida terror network could raid Syrian military arsenals for chemicals weapons or missiles that could strike Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel has not considered specifically trying to cross the border to seize the weapons. “There are other possibilities,” he said in an interview on Fox News.
Over the weekend, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would be prepared to attack Syrian weapons arsenals should the need arise.
Mr Netanyahu said preventing Syria’s weapons from falling into the wrong hands is key to Israeli security.
“Could you imagine Hezbollah, the people who are conducting with Iran all these terror attacks around the world – could you imagine them having chemical weapons? It would be like al Qaida having chemical weapons,” he said. “It’s something that is not acceptable to us, not acceptable to the United States and to any peaceable country in the world.”
“So I think that this is something we’ll have to act to stop if the need arises. And the need might arise if there’s a regime collapse, but not a regime change,” he said.
When asked whether Israel was prepared to act alone, Mr Netanyahu said Syria’s stockpile was a “common concern” and that “we’d have to see if there was a common action to address that concern.”
Mr Netanyahu said he believes the fall of the regime is inevitable, but that it could take days, weeks or months.
Also today, Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defence Ministry official, told Israel’s Army Radio that “right now, they (the Syrian regime) are maintaining control of these arsenals as best they can.”
Mr Barak made it clear that Israel is preparing for the worst. “I’ve ordered the Israeli military to prepare for a situation where we would have to weigh the possibility of carrying out an attack” against Syrian weapons arsenals, he said.