Israeli Army Says Assad Used Chemical Weapons in Syria

Soldier training with gas mask. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of Mr James Brabenec (IMCOM)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is believed to have used chemical weapons in the civil war in Syria, according to the Israeli military. Head of Military Intelligence Research Brig. Gen. Itai Brun was quoted by the IDF Spokesperson Twitter feed as making the claim. For many months the West has made it clear their staunch opposition to Assad’s using chemical weapons in the fight, with US President Barack Obama even calling it a “red line.”

Syria has a sizable chemical weapons stockpile and the West has long feared the weapons could also fall into the hands of terrorists as well. Despite the claims that Assad has used chemical weapons, one regional expert feels that won’t be enough to drive the West to do more in Syria. In other words, don’t expect US troops in Syria just yet.

While the West has concerns about potential war crimes in Syria and the humanitarian catastrophe there, they have so far refrained from sending troops or planes to Syria. However, the West, Israel and others have all expressed serious concerns about chemical weapons in Syria, which could reach terrorists and then be used in terror attacks on Israel or the West. For example, a chemical attack on an American subway could prove devastating. A group with close links to al-Qaeda is among those fighting in Syria today.

Despite stern warnings to the Syrian government against using chemical weapons, it appears the West isn’t eager to act militarily in Syria. Dr. Jonathan Spyer told The Mideast Update that it appears that the bar keeps being raised “ever higher” by the West on the chemical weapons use by the Assad regime.

“I mean that more and more appears to be permissible in the West’s eyes,” said Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at IDC-Herziliya in Israel. He noted that chemical weapons that are less than the most powerful battlefield weapons are “apparently ok.”

Previously, it appeared that the use of chemical weapons could be enough to get the US or others to intervene with fighter jets or soldiers in Syria, as they did in the conflict in Libya. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was quoted by an Israeli press release as saying on Monday that the use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer.”

” The United States along with Israel have options for all contingencies and certainly the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons would be a game changer and cross that red line,” said Hagel, who refused to say what would happen if Assad did use such weapons.

The Times of Israel reported that Brun told the conference that Assad is thought “to the best of our understanding” to have used Sarin gas, based on photos of the victims. Sarin gas, according to the US government’s Center for Disease Control, is a nerve gas that attacks a person’s ability to breathe normally. Essentially the gas can cause uncontrollable muscle stimulation until the person is too exhausted to breathe anymore.

The newspaper report said that Brun identified terrorists in Syria as the greatest threat to using chemical weapons. On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned they would act if terrorists were to get such weapons.

An Israeli press release quoted Ya’alon as telling reporters on Tuesday, “It hasn’t been tested yet but we are ready to operate if any rogue element is going to put his hands [on chemical weapons] or any chemical agents are going to be delivered to rogue elements in the region.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, April 23, 2013)

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