December 21, 2014

Why Israel Hit a Syria-Hizballah Convoy: Danger of Deadly Nerve Gas in Hands of Terrorist Organization


Area of the attack. Picture by: ADAMD9 / ROTTER

Area of the attack.
Picture by: ADAMD9 / ROTTER

It has been reported that a number of Israeli planes flew over Lebanon and attacked a convoy near the Syrian-Lebanese border. The fact that this comes shortly after Hizballah and Syrian forces had moved in growing numbers toward known chemical weapons’ storage areas implies that the Syrian regime was in the act of shipping chemical weapons to the Lebanese Shia Islamist group (which also happens to dominate the Lebanese government and to be involved in a lot of anti-Israel terrorism) Hizballah. This story has not yet been confirmed by Israel.

During the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war, Israel frequently hit convoys delivering weapons to Lebanon the moment they crossed the Syria-Lebanon border, showing a very strong intelligence capacity on such events. The Israeli position has been that it will not allow any transfer of advanced weapons by the Syrian regime to either Hizballah or radical Lebanese Sunni groups. Israel had previously made this point clear through public statements to the Syrian government. It has not been explicitly reported whether the weapons on the convoy were chemical ones.

Brigadier General Amnon Sofrin, a retired army intelligence officer and former head of intelligence for the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, gave a press conference in which he made the following points. I think that if we have solid evidence shared by our own partners all over the world, that chemical warheads are being transferred from Syria to Lebanon, to Hezbollah, I think that no one will condemn Israel for trying to prevent it.”

This should be read as explaining that Israel notified the United States and others of its intelligence information prior to the attack. He added that Syria possesses Sarin, a deadly nerve gas, and an even worse poison called VX which remains on the ground for many days after being fired. Syria has hundreds of warheads capable of carrying these substances. Hizballah could also put these warheads on missiles it possesses and shoot them into Israel.

 Sofrin continued: “Should [Syrian dictator Bashar al-]Assad decide his regime is at its end, he could think, ‘If I go [lose power part of my legacy] will be that Hezbollah will have capability to hit Israel very badly.”

Syria has regularly transferred advanced weapons’ systems to Hizballah. The alternative to the chemical weapons’ explanation would be if these were advanced Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles.

While much of the Syrian opposition is radical Islamist or even part of al-Qaida, Sofrin continued, that is a new threat but not an immediate threat like that emanating from Hizballah. However, given the likelihood of the regime being overthrown and replaced by a government that is led by the Muslim Brotherhood and, either willingly or because it is unable to prevent them from doing so, gives a free hands to Salafist groups or even al-Qaida affiliates, Israel cannot predict what its security situation will be like with Syria a year from now. Note that if al-Qaida gets its hands on chemical weapons—and that means deadly nerve gasses—this would be a direct threat to the United States and other Western countries as well as to Israel.

This article was published in PJ Media

About Barry Rubin

Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)