Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have asked IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to prepare for possible preemptive air and commando strikes on suspected Syrian chemical weapons depots and missile sites. The chemical weapons and missiles are in danger of falling into the hands of Iran’s pro-Syrian Shiite Hizbullah militia or Sunni al Qaeda rebels battling to topple the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.
Earlier this week, Israel’s Channel 10 TV News showed a platoon of pro-Assad Hizbullah fighters heading toward a chemical weapons base near the embattled city of Aleppo in northern Syria. According to the report, both Hizbullah and al Qaeda rebels are interested in overrunning the chemical weapons sites and missile bases and could inevitably clash with each other in the coming days. Other Israeli news sources reported that anti-government rebels have also surrounded several Air Force bases where Scud-C and Scud-D missiles, which are capable of hitting almost any target in Israel with nearly 1,000 pounds of explosives (including chemical weapons), are stored and protected by an elite military legion loyal to the Assad regime.
In recent days, the Pentagon has asked military commanders in Jordan and Turkey to also prepare their forces for possible strikes against Syrian chemical weapons sites. In light of the international community’s failure to stop the civil war in Syria, the resumption of internal unrest in Egypt and the engagement of France and the U.S. in a growing al Qaeda threat in Mali and Somalia, Israel has stepped up self-defense measures against possible conventional and unconventional attacks.
Several weeks ago, the U.S. sent an advanced Patriot anti-missile/anti-aircraft unit to the Haifa region. This week, the IDF positioned two of its most advanced Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in northern Israel. The IDF has also beefed up its ground forces command in the Golan Heights with advanced Merkava-4 tanks and elite combat units. And several groups of rebel jihadist (believed to be al Qaeda) fighters recently overran pro-government army positions in towns very close to the Syrian-Israeli border, according to the IDF.
High-ranking IDF commanders told Netanyahu and Barak that Hizbullah was trying to secure advanced anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles from Syrian bases in order to thwart Israeli Air Force attacks on its positions in Lebanon and Syria. IDF sources also said that North Korean- or Russian-made anti-ship missiles, which could be transferred from the Assad regime to Hizbullah, might be used in an attempt to destroy Israel’s offshore gas industry while hitting military and commercial vessels in Haifa Bay.
In recent days, Arab and other media outlets reported that mysterious explosions had occurred in at least two major Hizbullah military installations in Southern Lebanon and in the Baalbek Valley, located less than 50 miles from Damascus.