The fighting in Syria has “taken on the contours of a sectarian-tinged civil war,” leading to fears that its vast stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and threaten the entire region.
“Of all the Arab states, Bashar al-Assad of Syria has far and away the most extensive and sophisticated chemical weapons program,” Al Jazeera reported.
For the past 18 months Syria has been embroiled in an uprising in which protestors are demanding democratic reforms from autocratic ruler Bashar Assad. The United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising began 18 months ago, as Assad cracks down on the demonstrators.
“The longer fighting continues, the more al-Qaeda-affiliated groups entrench themselves in Syria,” defense expert Michael Rubin commented, calling on the U.S. administration to be ready to secure Syrian weapons if and when President Bashar Assad falls.
Israel’s Deputy-Chief of Staff Yair Naveh warned that Israeli defense forces “must not cease vigilance” lest such weapons fall into the hands of terrorist organizations operating in Syria, such as al-Qaeda or Hezbollah.
Naveh’s statements regarding chemical weapons and missiles came shortly after Syrian rebels commandeered a Syrian air force base near the city of Homs and took possession of a number of surface-to-air missile batteries and an unknown quantity of other weapons stored at the base.