News / Middle East

Israeli Concerns Rise Over Syria's Chemical Stockpile

An Israeli soldier stands guard next to an Iron Dome rocket interceptor battery deployed near the northern Israeli city of Haifa, January 28, 2013.
An Israeli soldier stands guard next to an Iron Dome rocket interceptor battery deployed near the northern Israeli city of Haifa, January 28, 2013.
Scott Bobb
Israeli Air Force planes reportedly struck a target in southern Syria near the border with Lebanon early Wednesday.

Quoting security sources, international wire services reported that Israeli aircraft attacked a convoy after an unusually high level of activity in nearby Lebanese airspace.

Israeli officials offered no comment. But the report comes amid rising concern in Israel that in the upheaval from Syria's civil war, Syria’s chemical weapons’ arsenal is vulnerable.

Israeli officials have been warning for days that as the Syrian government loses control of more territory, the risk is rising that some of its chemical and biological weapons could fall into the hands of militant anti-Israel groups.

Israeli officials say they are prepared to intervene militarily to prevent any transfer of chemical weapons from the Syrian stockpiles.

The head of the Israeli Air Force, Major-General Amir Eshel, said Syria is in the process of disintegrating and Israeli authorities are taking action on a daily basis in what he called an ongoing struggle to reduce the immediate threats of Syria's weapons falling into dangerous hands.

Eshel’s remarks to a security conference in Tel Aviv this week followed the deployment of two batteries of the Israeli anti-missile defense system, called Iron Dome, to northern Israel.

The Israeli military has also been holding exercises in the north.

Israeli fears

The head of diplomatic security in Israel's Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, told Israel’s Channel One television that Syrian government control of chemical weapons and a huge quantity of poisonous gas could change at any time.

The Syrian government has been battling rebels of the Free Syrian Army for nearly two years. The rebels have been joined by foreign Islamist fighters, some of whom are said to be affiliated with the al-Qaida terrorist group.

The former head of intelligence for Israel's Mossad security agency, Amnon Sofin, told reporters Wednesday that the Islamist fighters, sometimes called Salafists, do not have missiles and need firepower.

The greatest concern for Israel, he said, is that chemical weapons could come under the control of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

Israeli officials believe Hezbollah, which has sworn to destroy the Jewish state, has tens of thousands of rockets and missiles aimed at Israel from sites in southern Lebanon.

"Hezbollah, they possess first of all the launchers and the missiles and they can mount the chemical warheads on the missiles, something that the Salafists in Syria don't have so far," Sofin said.

Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told reporters the situation is endangering stability in the Middle East.

"It means that chemical weapons, if it [they] move into the hands of the extremists and the terrorists, will change dramatically the balance of power in the Middle East," he said. "It is something that I believe most of the world cannot tolerate."

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid