Israel: We Will Act To Prevent Syria's Chemical Weapons From Reaching Hezbollah
Tel Aviv has expressed grave concerns about the fate of Syria's weaponry should Bashar al Assad fall, saying they pose as great a threat to Israeli security as Iranian nuclear development.
As the violent government crack down on Syrian civilian protestors enters its eleventh month, Israeli intelligence now regards the fall of the Assad regime as inevitable.
Syria's massive stockpile of weapons includes surface-to-air missiles, high-trajectory long-range rockets and missiles, biological and chemical weapons, which are currently under the watchful guard of government troops.
An Israeli defence official was quoted last week in free Israeli daily Israel Hayom, a paper closely affiliated with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning that the transference of chemical weaponry to Lebanon would be tantamount to a declaration of war by the Lebanese government, adding that Israel would act to prevent such a move.
Air Force Command Major General Ido Nechushtan has stated baldly that the volatile situation in Syria may lead to a conflict on Israel's northern border.
"Everything that is happening [in Syria] every day is reason for us to re-examine the situation, closely follow the developments and make decisions as necessary," Nechushtan said.
Incoming Air Force Chief Major General Emir Eshel told a recent press conference: "The question is when, not if [Assad will fall]. And the big question is what will happen the following day.
"What has been passed on to Hezbollah so far? What will be passed on in the future? What will be divided between the two factions in Syria?" Benjamin Ben Eliezer, who has served both as Israel's minister of defence and deputy prime minister, warned last month that radical Shi'a militant group Hezbollah has trebled in strength since the last war between Lebanon and Israel in 2006.
"The fall of Syria will cause a lot of problems. We're talking in terms of thousands of missiles that might move to Hezbollah and endanger the whole of the Middle East," Ben Eliezer warned.
"Lebanon's Hezbollah is getting stronger. The numbers and the range of the missiles in Syria and already with Hezbollah are beyond any imagining. Even without Iran - they cover the whole of Israel."
According to Arab media reports, Syria has already moved Scud missiles to Hezbollah camps in Lebanon and erected advanced surface-to-air missiles in the Lebanese mountains.
Since 2008, Israel has warned of the transfer of unconventional weapons to the Lebanese militant group, which are stored on Syrian territory to prevent their destruction in an Israeli strike.
But with Assad's grip on Syria loosening, the danger is that these weapons, including deadly chemical agents such as Sarin and the nerve agent VX, will reach Hezbollah militants or fall into the hands of radical Sunni elements.