Israel Fears Syrian Chemical Weapons Spillover Into Golan Heights

The Associated Press
AP Photo

TEL AVIV – Israel fears there may be a chemical spillover into its territory from neighboring Syria, a classified cable from the Foreign Ministry says, adding that there would be a harsh response if such a scenario were to occur.

In a missive sent to 15 Israeli ambassadors around the world, the ministry outlined its concerns of a poison gas leak into Israel if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons against rebels situated near the Golan Heights, the Times of Israel reported citing Israel’s Channel 10 news.

The cable also instructed envoys to convey to their host countries that “such an incident would require Israel to respond in the strongest possible terms.”

The news comes in the wake of Israel’s interception of an Iranian drone and the subsequent downing of an Israeli F-16.

The cable tasked the ambassadors with underlining the triple threat posed by Syria, Iran and its Lebanese terror proxy, Hezbollah, and that any provocation by the Islamic Republic could put the whole region into turmoil.

“We must convey the message that Israel will not allow this and will defend itself, its citizens and its sovereignty,” the cable said, according to the report.

The Israeli envoys were also asked to urge their host countries to pressure Iran into ceasing its backing of Hezbollah and stop the terror group from manufacturing precision missiles that could target Israel, the report said.

The warnings came in light of Israel’s “sense” that the international community is not taking Iran’s entrenchment in Syria seriously.

The last time Israel feared a chemical spillover was in 2012, resulting in the distribution of gas masks to Israeli citizens. At the time, Israel was also concerned that the Assad regime would give its chemical weapons to Hezbollah.

The Syrian government on Wednesday again denied it was in possession of chemical weapons and said that their use was “immoral and unacceptable.”

On February 1, the Trump administration said Assad’s regime could be in the process of manufacturing new chemical weapons, which would prompt another round of U.S. strikes.

On Tuesday, a senior official from the Assad regime warned Israel that it would face “surprises” if it carries out any strikes on Syria, and that Israel was gravely mistaken if it thinks the Syrian army is not capable of defending the country.

Prior to Israel’s downing of the Iranian drone and the ensuing strikes in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Theresa May and instructed them to relay a message to Tehran that Israel will take whatever steps necessary against Iranian aggression.

The Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace early Saturday morning and remained there for a minute and a half before being downed by a combat helicopter. In response, Israel launched airstrikes on 12 Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, including three air-defense batteries and four Iranian targets such as the control center that launched the drone, marking what IAF Air Staff Commander Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar said was “the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted against Syrian air defenses since Operation Peace for the Galilee” in 1982 during the First Lebanon War.

Syria responded with a barrage of missiles that resulted in the downing of an Israeli F-16 in which two pilots were injured, one seriously and another lightly.

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