The IDF raised its level of alert on Thursday and called off weekend holidays for a number of units due to concern over the fighting in Syria.
Israel’s primary concern is that Syria’s chemical weapons, or other advanced military systems, will fall into the hands of rogue actors such as Hezbollah or global jihad elements operating in the country. Israel is also concerned that Assad, in desperation, may attempt to orchestrate a confrontation with Israel.
On Thursday, Defence Minister Ehud Barak toured the border with Syria and warned that Hezbollah might move Syrian chemical weapons to Lebanon. “We are monitoring two main elements,” he said. “The possibility that during the fall of the Assad regime, Hezbollah will try to smuggle – from Syria to Lebanon – advanced weapons systems, or heavy surface-to-surface missiles, or even chemical weapons; thus we will remain vigilant.”
On Wednesday night, Barak spoke with US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and updated him on Israel’s concerns regarding the situation in Syria. Barak told Panetta, who is scheduled to visit Israel later this month, that Assad’s days were numbered and that Israel was concerned over Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The US appears to share Israel’s acute concern as, according to a report in the Daily Beast, US Intelligence is scrambling to locate Syria’s chemical and biological weapons. An Obama administration official told the Daily Beast that the CIA has sent officers to the region to assess Syria’s weapon programme. According to the US official , who has access to Syrian intelligence, , one major task for the CIA right now is to work with military defectors to find out as much information on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction. Another major focus is sorting through reams of intercepted phone calls and emails, satellite images, and other collected intelligence to find the exact locations of the Syrian weapons, this official added.
The task of locating Syria’s chemical and biological weapons has become more urgent in recent days as last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Syrian military had moved its chemical weapons out of storage.
Syria’s stockpile is believed to be the largest in the region, possibly the world, as the country never signed up to the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the treaty that bans the use, stockpiling, or production of chemical weapons.