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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is concerned that terrorists could gain control of chemical weapons if Syria’s government collapses into chaos and won’t rule out taking measures to prevent such a transfer.
“Do I seek action? No,” Netanyahu said in an interview on the Fox News Sunday program. “Do I preclude it? No.”
Netanyahu said the need for action “might arise if there’s a regime collapse, but not a regime change.”
The Syrian army’s inability to end an armed rebellion that has killed more than 17,000 civilians in the past 17 months is raising concerns about the government’s ability to protect its stockpiles of chemical weapons. Syrian rebels have fought during the past few days for control of the country’s border crossings.
Hassan Nasrallah, the chief of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement, said the group used weapons and missiles from Syria in its clash with Israel in 2006. Israel has blamed Iran and Hezbollah for a bombing that killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on July 18.
“We certainly don’t want to be exposed to chemical weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah or some other terrorist group,” Netanyahu said today.
Earlier today, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel is “watching for the possibility that Hezbollah will take the opportunity to transfer sophisticated weaponry and more than this it isn’t appropriate to say. Not when we will act, how we will act or if we will act.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on July 18 that the Assad regime was responsible for ensuring the safety of chemical weapons.
“There are significant amounts of chemical weapons in Syria, and we have to be ready and prepared if the Syrian regime loses control of its chemical weapons arsenal,” Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said today. “At the moment, they are maintaining control of it.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Edney in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org