Senior Israeli military officers, referring to the Syrian foreign ministry statement Monday, July 23, that Syria would only use chemical weapons against “external aggression,” found in it a direct threat by the Assad regime to turn those weapons against Israel. It was Syria’s rejoinder to Israel’s vow to use force against those chemical weapons to prevent them from reaching Hizballah’s hands in Lebanon.
Tensions between Syria and Israel, like its other neighbors – especially Jordan and Turkey – rose to a new pitch in the wake of the new Syrian statement.
Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said plainly Sunday that preventing Syria’s chemical weapons from “falling into the wrong hands” was a key to Israeli security, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he had ordered the Israeli military to prepare for a possible attack on Syria’s weapons arsenal, because “Israel cannot accept the transfer of advanced weapons from Syria to Lebanon.”
Monday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, catching onto Syria’s veiled threat, called it unacceptable: “This is typical of the complete illusion of this regime that they are the victims of external aggression.”
A few hours later, the UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon said in New York that he was “very concerned” that “Syria may be tempted to use chemical weapons.”