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Syrian Chemical Weapons Stockpile in Jeopardy: Israeli General Yair Naveh Warns of Consequence

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Published on Jun 13, 2012

One of Israel's top generals is warning that the violent uprising in Syria may put chemical weapons in the hands of terrorist organizations hostile to the Jewish State. The Israeli army's second-in-command, Major-General Yair Naveh, said Syrian rebels may end up inheriting President Bashar Al-Assad's vast stockpile of chemical weapons, what Naveh called the "largest" in the region. The rebels, he fears, could give missiles equipped with chemical warheads to Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda cells and those missiles, he emphasized, can hit every part of Israel's territory.

Major General Naveh's remarks are the first concrete security warning from a top Israeli army official since the bloody showdown between insurgents and the Syrian regime began 15 months ago... At first reluctant to comment on the neighboring violence, Israeli officials are now publicly condemning the brutality of President Assad's regime, calling Assad's rule "illegitimate" and discussing new security threats that may follow Assad's expected downfall.

Major-General Naveh's concerns make it clear that the transfer of chemical weapons to anti-Israel terror groups tops the list. Its not a far-fetched fear -- Syria today helps supply and transfer Iranian-made conventional weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas. The only question is whether a rebel-led Syrian government would continue and expand the smuggling. Syria denies having chemical weapons, but it's widely believed to have a large arsenal -- producing, by some independent estimates, a few hundred tons of chemical agent per year.

Syria is only one of seven countries that are non-signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. Naveh's boss -- Israeli Army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz -- is also going public with security warnings on Syria. He told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that instability on the Golan Heights is getting worse and worse because of the conflict in Syria. Israel, Gantz said, will pay the price with more activity along the border and more weapons smuggling from Syria to Hezbollah. He concluded by asking for a budget increase to deal with what he called the "negative trends."

Why is Israel suddenly speaking out on Syria? It seems there was shift here about two weeks ago following a first and then second massacre in towns outside the central city of Homs. The images and reports of dozens of women and children brutally murdered by Syrian government backed militias broke Israel's silence. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed disgust over what he called the slaughter of civilians. And he urged the world to take note that Iran and Hezbollah are willing accomplices in the horrifying violence.

Jordana Miller, JN1, Jerusalem.

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