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Middle east

Israel says Syrian regime used chemical weapons against civilians

© Haaretz

Text by HAARETZ

Latest update : 2013-04-23

At an INSS conference, the head of the Research Division at Military Intelligence said that Israel believes Assad used sarin gas against Syrian citizens.

Read premium content from Israel's Haaretz on www.france24.com.

The forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad have used chemical weapons against civilians, an Israeli Military Intelligence official said Tuesday.

"To the best of our professional understanding, the regime has used lethal chemical weapons on a number of occasions, including the incident on March 19," the head of the Research Division at Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Itai Baron, said at conference of the Institute for National Security Studies.

He went on to address the characteristics that led IDF Military Intelligence to this conclusion, photographs taken of the affected areas after the attacks, including depictions of foam coming out of the mouths of Syrians in the area of the attacks. Brun added that the Israeli intelligence community believed that the chemical weapon used was sarin-based.

At the end of his lecture, Brun was asked by the head of INSS, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who served in the past as director of Military Intelligence, about his assessment of the likelihood of the Assad regime using chemical weapons against Israel and whether Syrian rebels would use chemical weapons should they take over chemical weapon stocks.

"In Syria there is a large arsenal of chemical weapons, more than 1,000 tons of chemicals, thousands of aerial bombs and quite a lot of warheads and surface-to-surface missiles that can be armed with chemical weapons," said Brun.

Brun also criticized the global community's response to events in Syria. "The response of the world on this issue reflects the same trend of limited influence and a predisposition not to intervene," said Brun. "The developments are certainly worrying ones: First the fact that chemical weapons have been used without any… [international] response is a very worrying development and could certainly signal that such a thing is legitimate."

He also stated that there was a possibility that Syria's chemical weapons would find their way into the hands of terrorists, "who don’t undertake normal cost-benefit calculations," something he also called, "worrying." All the same, Brun qualified his words by saying that he wasn't certain that regional upheaval would lead to the use of chemical weapons, but that there would be "a need to see how the situation develops in the short term."

Brun also addressed attempts to transfer advanced weapons systems from Syria to Hezbollah. Regarding what foreign media recently described as an Israeli attack on Syria, Brun said, "the SA-17 missile launchers that were bombed in Syria were going to be transferred to Hezbollah." Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also addressed the issue on Monday when he said that the transfer of advanced weaponry was crossing a red line and when such a thing was done, "we act."

Recently, Western intelligence officials have said that Syrian forces used chemical weapons in two incidents in the Damascus area on March 19. However, various intelligence agencies, first and foremost the Americans, have not concluded whether the material used was a toxic chemical or a material that paralyzes only and does not kill.

Washington has reiterated that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would constitute an unequivocal red line, which if crossed is liable to spur American involvement in the crisis.

“We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in his address last month at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, two days after the use of chemical weapons was first reported. “The world is watching, and we will hold you accountable.”

                                                                                                  -- By Gili Cohen, Haaretz

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© Read premium content from leading Israeli daily Haaretz on FRANCE 24

Date created : 2013-04-23

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