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Netanyahu on BBC: Israel ready to act on Syrian weapons

By Missing Peace

Fence on Syrian border

new electronic fence on Israeli Syrian border near Nimrod Castle

Last night Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was interviewed by BBC’s  Lyse Ducet. One of the topics of the interview was the situation in Syria, where Islamist groups try to obtain some of Assad’s huge chemical weapon arsenal.

Netanyahu refused to answer questions about Israel’s involvement in Syria. However, it became clear that the IDF has prepared for action to prevent a situation in which Islamist groups can threaten Israel with chemical weapons from Syrian soil.

He said that in Syria “the bad are fighting the bad and that Israel has the right to prevent weapons from falling in the wrong hands and that such a situation is also a challenge to Europe”.

Border

We made a tour along the Israeli Syrian border two days ago. The situation there has changed significantly.

One can see that the IDF has erected a new electronic fence and has increased it’s presence along the border. This has to do with the end of the status quo that existed along the border between Israel and Syria since 1974.

The regime in Syria has already lost control over the area bordering Israel. This has resulted in several incidents in which Syrian opposition groups fired upon Israeli positions along the border. Some of the UNDOF observer forces have already left their positions. This could eventually lead to the collapse of UNDOF altogether.

Impasse

Inside Syria the situation seems to be at an impasse. Assad’s forces are still in control of the large cities, the coastal region and an area in the west where the Alawites are residing.

The rebels control most of Syria’s territory but are divided.

The various opposition groups receive aid from nations which are close to them politically. For example Quatar and Hamas and Turkey provide support to the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia to the Salafists and the West provides limited support to the Free Syrian Army, the most liberal of all opposition groups.

With more than 70.000 Syrians dead and over one million refugees who have fled the country, Syria could collapse. The possibility that a strong central government will replace the Assad regime is becoming more unlikely with every passing day.

As a result Syria could become a failed state where various groups are in control of parts of the country and of the chemical and other strategic weapons.This will have ramifications for Syria’s future and for the regional stability.

The crisis in Syria has already spilled over to neighboring countries, such as Lebanon.

Intervention

Israel has no real ability to affect the situation in Syria but could be forced to intervene. This has already happened when an attempt was being made to transfer some of Assad’s strategic weapons to Hezbollah last January.

During the BBC interview Netanyahu rejected a suggestion that Israel is preparing for a more ‘aggressive’ operation in Syria. He said that Israel is not aggressive but that his government has a ‘constant plan to defend the country’.