Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz spoke at the annual Herzliya Conference Monday evening, outlining a broad array of threats facing Israel and the region. In between highlighting ongoing efforts by the Iran-backed terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas to penetrate Israel and attack Israeli civilians, Gantz in particular emphasized the threat posed by Syria’s chemical and biological weapons arsenal:
He said Syria was “unstable” and dangerous and noted that while terror organizations in Syria are currently fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces, “we are the next in line. We are liable to be the next challenge of those organizations. Strategic capabilities in the hands of Syria can end up in the hands of the terror organizations,” and if they obtain these capabilities, there is “a very big chance they can use them against us in the future.”
Syria’s non-conventional arsenal contains the world’s largest stockpile of chemical and biological weapons. Israel has set a firm “red line” against the intentional or unintentional transfer to advanced Syrian arms to any of the sides fighting in the two-year conflict. Jerusalem has emphasized it will act both if Damascus appears to be proactively transferring the weapons to its Shiite ally Hezbollah, which has gone all-in on behalf of the regime, or if Syria’s stockpiles are in danger of being seized by the largely Sunni opposition groups.
Last January Israeli Air Force jets reportedly struck a Syrian convoy suspected of trying to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah. Speculation continues to swirl that the convoy contained advanced anti-aircraft missiles, which Hezbollah might have used in the future as cover to smuggle chemical weapons into Lebanon for future deployment against Israel.
Gantz emphasized, however, that the threat of a non-conventional attack against Israel is just as pressing coming from the other side of the Syrian conflict:
Israel’s military chief Benny Gantz said on Monday that “terrorist” groups fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad alongside other insurgents were becoming stronger. “The situation in Syria has become exceptionally dangerous. The terrorist organisations are becoming stronger on the ground. Now they are fighting against Assad but in the future they could turn against us,” Gantz said.
Al Qaeda-linked Syrian opposition forces, taking advantage of the deepening security vacuum in the Golan Heights, pressed this weekend into the no-man’s land that separates Israel from Syria. They swore to invade Israel and made videos. Several videos: