Israel Strongly Condemns Syria Chemical Attack, Calls on World to Intervene

Netanyahu says international community should act to remove all chemical weapons from Syria, says it highlights Israel's need to 'protect itself'; minister: Israel must lead world to end massacre.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech in his office in his Jerusalem office December 28, 2016.
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech in his office in his Jerusalem office December 28, 2016. BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu severely condemned the usage of chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Syria. "The horrible images in Syria should shock any human," Netanyahu said at a memorial for Israel's former president Chaim Herzog held in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

"Israel calls on the international community to complete its commitment from 2013 and remove the chemical weapons from Syria. The cruel war there highlights our great commandment – forever to protect ourselves against any enemy and against any threat."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said a suspected chemical attack by Syrian government or Russian jets killed at least 58 people, including 11 children, in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib.

Chairman of the Habayit Hayehudi party and Education Minister Naftali Bennet urged Netanyahu to convene a security-cabinet meeting on Syria's chemical attack and its possible ramifications for Israel.

Bennett's bureau said that the education minister wants to hold a discussion on humanitarian aspects of the conflict, the security-related implications on the region, and the systematic massacre taking place in Syria.

A member of the security cabinet, Interior Minister Arye Dery, tweeted that Israel must intervene on the situation in Syria. "A heartbreaking horror in Syria this morning," he wrote, adding that "dozens of children killed by chemical weapons. As a power and the sole democracy in the region, Israel must lead the world in putting an end to this horrible massacre."

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin also condemned the incident, calling it a "stain on humanity," and urging the international community to "join together to bring an end to this murderous insanity and make sure these types of images will never again be seen anywhere in the world. I call on world leaders and the heads of the world powers to act now and stop the criminal murdered taking in place in Syria at the hands of the Assad regime and act to have chemical weapons removed from the Syrian territory."

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon called events in Syria a "genocide," saying that the "massacre of children requires unwavering action by the world to curb Assad's regime. Israel, as the nation of the Jewish people, must make good on its moral commitment and open its gate to give the children victims medical care. This type of action will not be lacking in resources or in moral resolve.

A man breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017.
AMMAR ABDULLAH/REUTERS

“The condition in Syria is a testimony to Obama’s failure,” chairman of the opposition, MK Isaac Herzog told Israel's Army Radio. “[The Americans] were sure they're cutting down chemical weapons, but now we discover there are in fact other units of chemical weapons,” Herzog said.

“I’m sure President Trump is in the situation room and he'll have to face this test. I think that he should lead a coalition to neutralize the use of chemical weapons.”

Coalition whip, MK David Bitan, from Netanyahu's Likud party also blamed Obama, saying he had been duped by the Assad regime. "An agreement [to see chemical weapons removed from Syria] was reached, but not we learn that Assad fooled Obama. This is especially concerning in wake of the nuclear deal that administration signed with Iran and casts a long shadow on that president's achievements with the [Iranian] ayatollahs."

Echoing Netanyahu, he said "Assad will stop at nothing to survive, we can only trust ourselves in protecting Israel.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said Tuesday that "We must never remain silent in the face of the criminal massacre in Syria and allow these shocking images to repeat themselves. The UN must act immediately to prevent any use of chemical weapons. This is the true purpose of the UN and it must fulfill its responsibility."

Former head of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, said Tuesday that Assad should be sent to the International Criminal Court as a war criminal.

Yadlin, who currently serves as head of the Institute for National Security Studies, wrote on his Twitter account that it's time for Assad to pay for the war crimes he had committed. In an interview with Army Radio, he said that these were acts that, as Jews, Israel cannot allow to continue and claimed that "the right thing that should happen tonight is that the same planes that attacked in Idlib in Khan Sheikhoun should disappear and be destroyed."

Yadlin, who formerly served as a senior officer in the air force, also said that Israel cannot remain silent after the use chemical weapons that crossed red lines. Yadlin said earlier that "Israel must lead a clear moral front against the war crimes of Iranian-Assad-Hezbollah forces" and to formulate a more active policy against such events in Syria.

Living with Assad

Condemnations and calls for action poured in from across the world, with Turkey calling the incident a "crime against humanity" and France calling the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting.

The condemnations come a week after the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that it "was no longer our priority to sit and focus on getting Assad out." Haley explained that "you pick and choose your battles." 

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The following day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that "with respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept." He added that "the United States has profound priorities in Syria and Iraq, and we’ve made it clear that counterterrorism, particularly the defeat of ISIS, is foremost among those priorities."