Israel claims Syria has 'three tonnes' of chemical weapons

Israel claims Syria has 'three tonnes' of chemical weapons
Israeli military officials have said that the Assad regime still possesses up to three tonnes of chemical weapons, similar to those used in a deadly attack on an Idlib town.
2 min read
20 April, 2017
Assad insists his regime handed over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013 [AFP]
Israeli military officials have claimed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad still has tonnes of chemical weapons.

In a briefing to local press, a senior Israeli officer - speaking on condition of anonymity, as per Israeli military protocol - estimated that the Assad regime possesses up to three tonnes of chemical weapons, Reuters reported.

Israel and Syria have never had diplomatic relations, and a state of war has formally existed between the two since the formation of Israel in 1948. Despite frequently using its propaganda tools against its mostly Arab neighbours, Israel has taken only a limited role in the Syrian civil war, and comments regarding chemical stockpiles, though clearly lacking in evidence, appear consistent with the views of several other international powers.

The comments come weeks after a sarin gas attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun killed at least 89 people and injured hundreds.

Assad insists his regime handed over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by the regime's key ally, Russia, to avoid threatened US military action.

"There was no order to make any attack, we don't have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago," Assad claimed in an interview with AFP.

The evidence to the contrary is stacked high, however, with images beamed around the world of entire families suffering injuries and foaming at the mouth consistent with a sarin attack.

On 6 April, Israel's hard-line foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said with "100 percent" certainty that Assad ordered and planned the chemical attack.

Those claims were later echoed by France, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault branding Assad's denial of the attack as "100 percent lies and propaganda", blaming regime military forces.

On Wednesday, he said France would produce proof "in a few days" that Assad launched the chemical strike.

"We have elements that will allow us to show that the regime knowingly used chemical weapons," Ayrault said of the suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun on 4 April.

"In a few days I will be able to bring you the proof," he told French television.

The chemical attack was not the first time the Syrian regime has used toxic weapons.

In November, a joint investigation by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that several units of the Syrian regime's forces had used chemicals against three villages in northern Syria in 2014 and 2015.

It was the first time an international probe blamed Bashar al-Assad's forces after years of denial from Damascus.

An attack on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013 also killed hundreds of civilians.