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Report: Syria chemical arsenal within Hezbollah reach

Israel is continuing to warn the world of the potentially devastating outcome if Syria’s chemical arsenal falls into the hands of rebels, or worse, Hezbollah, as Lebanese media outlets reported that the Lebanese terror group had already obtained some chemical weapons and long-range missiles.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma in Moscow. Amid reports of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal falling within Hezbollah's reach, Assad reportedly remains "calm," perhaps due to Russia's deployment of a sizable naval force for an exercise off the Syrian coast. (Rakkar/Wikimedia Commons)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma in Moscow. Amid reports of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal falling within Hezbollah’s reach, Assad reportedly remains “calm,” perhaps due to Russia’s deployment of a sizable naval force for an exercise off the Syrian coast. (Rakkar/Wikimedia Commons)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday met with a delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives led by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), on Monday expressed his concern over the developments in Syria, and said the outcomes facing Israel were “bad, bad and worse.”

The prime minister was briefed on the Syrian situation over the weekend and multiple meetings were held to discuss possible options.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that Israel and the U.S. were working in full cooperation on the Syrian issue, and on Monday Netanyahu’s adviser and National Security Council chief Yaakov Amidror visited Moscow and spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the matter.

Less than a week after the general election, in which Netanyahu won the leadership post by a narrow margin, he met with Middle East Quartet special envoy Tony Blair on Sunday, telling him that “the Middle East doesn’t stop for elections; everything continues. We need to work on peace and security and there’s no better person to work with than you.”

According to Lebanese TV, Hezbollah fighters helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight the Sunni rebels in Syria have now taken over army bases throughout the country. Hundreds of armed fighters from the Shiite group were seen accompanying personnel from the Syrian military’s unconventional weapons program, as well as taking position inside Syrian bases where chemical weapons were stored.

The Syrian military has been fighting rebels to keep control of the al-Safira compound south of Aleppo, where chemical weapons are produced and stored. Arab media reported that after days of pitched battles the army succeeded in repelling the rebel attack and regaining control of the territory around the base.

“Assad ordered the military to increase its bombing campaign in al-Safira, because he is in cahoots with the Zionists, who are helping his regime survive,” a rebel belonging to the jihadist group Jahbat al-Nusra said. The rebel claimed their retreat was “to rearm and reinforce our troops.”

Lebanese newspaper Al-Nahar, which is aligned with Hezbollah, reported that the Syrian president was “calm and certain he will maintain control and restore stability to his country.” According to the report, an Arab diplomat said he spoke with Assad for three hours, during which Assad showed “an impressive knowledge of every facet of the crisis in his country.”

Assad’s peace of mind could be the result of something else. Russia has deployed a sizable naval force for an exercise off the Syrian coast. According to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), the exercise, which was expected to end on Tuesday, was being presided over by Russia’s military chief.

Tzvi Magen, who compiled the INSS report, did not rule out the possibility that, under the guise of a training exercise, Russia had deployed a large military contingent to a sensitive fighting zone.

Magen also speculated that it could be Russia’s intention to prompt the U.S. to reach an agreement over Syria. If the West and Russia do not come to an agreement, Magen said he believed Russia would create conditions that will help Assad maintain control of the Alawite regions by securing the Syrian coast. If true, it could be a sign that Syria was about to be partitioned into separate states.

This story first appeared in Israel Hayom and is distributed with the permission of that newspaper.