The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Aram shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 17:3)
Two Israeli Ministers, Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon and Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz, confirmed on Thursday, the news reports that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on the people of Damascus early Wednesday morning. Conflicting reports of the death toll have emerged, ranging from 500 to 1,300 dead, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The United States and others said it had no independent confirmation that chemical weapons had been used the JPost reported. The United Nations inspection team, already on the ground in Syria, were going to work on the most recent allegations according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Describing the civil war as a life and death struggle between Allawites and Sunnis, the Defense Minister said there was no end in sight to the conflict. The Assad regime has lost control of Syria, and is present in only forty percent of the country, Ya’alon said. He stated that the Syrian conflict has become a regional and a global one for a long period, and that Israel has chosen not to intervene, but to stick to red lines to protect its vital security interests. “I don’t see an end to this situation, even Assad’s fall won’t lead to it’s end,” he said, the Post reported. Lebanon is linked in to the Iranian-sponsored axis, hence the war from Syria is spilling over into it, Ya’alon added.
Steinitz said Israel’s assessment was based on “intelligence estimates,” but did not elaborate, according to The Times of Israel. Steinitz told Israel Radio on Thursday that the attack the previous day was not the first time such agents were used. He appeared to be blaming Syrian President Bashar Assad, calling his regime “exceptionally cruel.”
Former defense minister Shaul Mofaz said Thursday that the international community, and especially the US, must intervene in Syria even though it is clear they don’t intend to do so.
Mofaz told Army Radio Thursday morning that Wednesday’s attack was not the first time the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, echoing Steinitz’s claim.
“The whole world knows this,” he said, but the UN inspectors on the ground are limited in what they can do, and “the world will not act.” “These days, each of the Western heads of state acts based on his interests,” Mofaz stated, according to The Times of Israel.
“However, they have a responsibility, as protectors of the free world, to act and take steps that will deter Assad from using weapons of mass destruction — but that’s not happening.”
Assad “views the lack of response [from the West] as a weakness,” and will continue to use chemical weapons as long as he can get away with it, Mofaz said. He added that Israel would not take action against Assad, again saying the international community needed to do more.
Asked whether Israel would rather Assad be replaced or remain in power, the former defense minister said there wasn’t a clear choice, and noted that “it’s not in our hands.” There are “many terrorist organizations involved in this war” from both sides, he said, and whatever the outcome, “Israel must be prepared, it must be ready.”
While the UN Security Council called Wednesday for “a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation” of the latest allegation of chemical weapons use in Syria, efforts to come out with strong language against the government were undercut by Russia and China.
The Times of Israel reports that diplomats who participated in a two-hour closed-door meeting of the UNSC claimed that America, France, Britain and others desired a strong condemnation of the chemical attacks, only to be blocked by Syrian supporters, Russia and China. Russia and China would only agree that the council president could sum up the session with “press elements” — close to the weakest response from the UN’s most powerful body, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. A Russian official called the alleged attack a “planned provocation on the part of the Syrian opposition.”
The US has long known that Assad has been using chemical weapons on his own population. On June 13, the United States said it had conclusive evidence that Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons against opposition forces. That crossed what President Barack Obama had called a “red line” and prompted a US decision to send arms and ammunition to the opposition, though reports say none have arrived yet.
In a comment that expresses the fear of many in the Jewish State, former Chief Rabbi of the Israeli army, Rabbi Avichai Ronsky wrote on his Facebook page that Israelis must be concerned about the mass casualties in Syria. “If hundreds of people are being killed by poisonous attack and the world remains silent, the world will remain silent when those weapons are aimed at us.”