'Israel won't allow chemical weapons to reach Hezbollah,' PM says
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Fox that terror attack in Burgas "is a reminder ... that the world's most dangerous regime must not be allowed to have the world's most dangerous weapons," in reference to Iran • Israel files complaint with U.N. Security Council over Syrian troops entering demilitarized zone.
Shlomo Cesana, Yoni Hirsch, Lilach Shoval, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Fox News he is less concerned with what replaces the regime in Syria and more with what happens to Syria's chemical stockpiles.
Photo credit: Screenshot Fox News.
Israel will not allow Syrian chemical and other non-conventional weapons to fall into the hands of Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday amid concerns over the escalating crisis in Syria.
The deteriorating situation of President Bashar al-Assad's regime is stoking Israeli fears that terrorists 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.
Netanyahu said Israel hasn't considered specifically trying to cross the border to seize the weapons. "There are other possibilities," he said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.
"I think the regime [in Syria] will go. I don't know if it's days or weeks or months, but I don't think it's sustainable. And I think it will go. I'm less concerned with what replaces it," Netanyahu said. "I'm more concerned with the seamline of what could happen to those stocks of chemical weapons and those deadly rockets and missiles when there is no government in Syria."
"Can you imagine Hezbollah — the people who are conducting with Iran all these terror attacks around the world — can you imagine that they would have chemical weapons? It's like al-Qaida having chemical weapons. It's something that is not acceptable to us, not acceptable to the United States, and to any peaceable country in the world. Something [sic] will have to act to stop if the need arises," Netanyahu said when asked if Israel would take action to secure Syria's chemical stockpiles. "And the need might arise if there's a regime collapse but not a regime change. That is, you go into some chaos and all these sundry sites are left basically unguarded. Hezbollah can come pick at it, or some other terror organizations or groups can come pick at it. And that is something that is of great concern to me as I'm sure it is to the United States."
When asked whether Israel was prepared to act alone, 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."
Netanyahu also spoke about the connection between Hezbollah and last week's terror attack in Burgas, Bulgaria.
"What Iran has done over the last two years, and increasingly over the last few months, is to carry out attacks, most of which have been foiled, or lay the ground or the foundation for future attacks in five continents. And that's a worldwide terror campaign directed at us, but often including others. For example, there was an Iranian planned attack on the Saudi ambassador to the United States. It was very brazen. How could Iran be doing this and getting away with murder, literally?
"It's because nobody names and shames them. So the reason I'm on this program right now is to name and shame. Because Iran is using terror, the way anybody uses terror, you use it in stealth, you hide behind somebody else, in order not to be given responsibility for these heinous acts. And the same is done with Hezbollah. Well we now have five Iranians in custody, we have two Hezbollah operatives in custody, some were found with explosives, across a myriad of countries," Netanyahu told Fox News.
"It's them, we know it. And it's time for all countries to point a finger at the country behind these attacks and the group that helps them, and that's Iran with its proxy Hezbollah. That's the first thing you have to do — expose those who stand behind terror."
Asked if Israel's retaliation against Iran for the recent terror attacks and attempted attacks is linked to the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, the prime minister said, "I think this is a reminder, this wave of terror attacks, that the world's most dangerous regime must not be allowed to have the world's most dangerous weapons."
Also Sunday, Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, spoke about the situation in Syria, telling Army Radio that "right now, they (the Syrian regime) are maintaining control of these [weapons] arsenals as best they can."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the weekend said Israel would be prepared to attack Syrian weapons arsenals should the need arise. "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 told Channel 2 TV on Friday.
On Sunday, he told reporters, "the state of Israel cannot accept a situation where advanced weapons systems are transferred from Syria to Lebanon."
The possibility that the bloodshed in Syria could spill over Israel's frontier has become an even more tangible worry as the fighting intensifies in Assad's strongholds and near the frontier with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
Barak warned last week that Israel would stop Syrian refugees from entering the Golan should they try to flee there.
The head of military intelligence voiced concern that Syrian territory bordering the Golan could become a haven for militant groups, much like Egypt's Sinai desert has become a launching pad for attacks on southern Israel.
Defense officials have said Israeli troops in the Golan have not been put on a war footing.
U.S. Senator John McCain said that in addition to the Israeli concerns, there was a risk that the Syrian government might use chemical weapons against its opponents.
"These are helicopter gunships, tanks, artillery that are slaughtering people, and now there is a risk — and I'm not saying it is going to happen — a risk that in his desperation, Bashar al-Assad might use those chemical weapons," McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, said on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama on Air Force One that the chemical weapons arsenal appeared still to be under the Syrian government's control. But a concerned Washington was monitoring the stockpiles and consulting with Syria's neighbors, he said.
"We believe that Syria's chemical weapons remain under Syrian government control," Carney said. "But given the escalation in violence, and the regime's increasing attacks on its own people, we remain very concerned about these weapons."
Meanwhile, Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador, Chaim Waxman, filed a complaint with the Security Council, in which he wrote that on July 19, Syrian troops entered the demilitarized zone between the Israeli and Syrian borders. "This act is a blatant violation of the 1974 Armistice agreement and has serious potential consequences for regional stability," Waxman wrote.
The head of the team of U.N. inspectors on the border between Israel and Syria confirmed Waxman's claim.