TEL AVIV – The United States issued a warning to Israel two hours ahead of its strike on Syria, a senior IDF official said on Wednesday.
According to the official, the Israeli military was briefed in advance of the U.S. launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Al Shayrat Airbase, from which warplanes belonging to the Syrian regime carried out a chemical gas attack.
In the aftermath of the American strike, the U.S. said that Russia too was given forewarning.
“Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement on April 7.
Syria’s denial that its military was responsible for the attack is ludicrous, the IDF official said. “It’s difficult to imagine that Assad did not know about the attack in advance. And the price he’s paid for it is severe. He’s lost all legitimacy,” he said.
In a 2013 deal brokered by Russia and the U.S., Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles. The agreement was inked in the aftermath of a deadly attack on East Ghouta near the capital of Damascus where over 1,400 people were killed, among them more than 400 children.
The official said that the regime removed most of its stockpiles but held onto between one to three tons of the deadly chemical agent Sarin.
According to the official, the death of 100 civilians in the gas attack was the result of the Assad regime’s lack of progress on the ground despite help from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
Whereas two years ago, Iran was markedly closer to achieving hegemony in Syria, Russia now has control over much of western Syria. However, the official said, “even with support from the Russians and Hezbollah, Assad cannot control the entire country. His forces are gaining ground in western Syria but it is hard to see him controlling the entire country.”
He noted that it was unlikely the sides will arrive at a political solution to the conflict in the near future.
“The Syria we once knew is gone and will never be again,” he said.