Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel is getting ready for the downfall of President Bashar Assad's regime in Syria, and the implications this will have for the regime's chemical weapons cache.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, the prime minister said that Israel "is following dramatic developments in Syria, cooperating with the U.S. and the international community, and taking the necessary steps to prepare for the possibility of radical changes to the regime with all the consequences these may hold for networks of sensitive weapons."
The most reliable evidence of Assad's deteriorating position has been the firing of Scud missiles at rebel strongholds in Syria's north. NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmusen said Friday that the Syrian military has continued to fire Scud-type missiles against anti-government forces, describing the move as an act of desperation of a regime nearing its end. The Scud is the regime's penultimate resource, superseded only by the use of chemical and biological weapons against the opposition forces - which have not been tried because of the stern warnings issued by the international community. The Syrian army has already tried attacks by fighter planes, fuel-air explosives, artillery barrages and tank fire.
U.S. intelligence says the regime may be readying chemical weapons and could be desperate enough to use them. Both Israel and the U.S. have also expressed concerns they could fall into militant hands if the regime crumbles.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavarov also said on Friday the Syrian government has pulled its chemical weapons together to one or two locations from several arsenals across the country to keep them safe amid the rebel onslaught.
"According to the information we have, as well as the data of the U.S. and European special services, the government is doing everything to secure it," he said.
On Sunday, Syria's rebels said they had seized a government military camp near Damascus, building on its current offensive into the capital.
Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera quoted the rebel Syrian Free Army as saying that its fighters had captured the camp in the area of Ras al-Ein, in the outskirts of Damascus, after fierce clashes with government troops.
Rebels and troops loyal to President Bashar Assad were also fighting in the suburban Damascus towns of Darya and Arabeen, reported the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Opposition forces have been fighting government forces in and around Damascus for weeks, raising the possibility that Assad could lose his hold on the capital.
At least 130 people were killed Saturday across Syria, including 42 in and around Damascus, added the Britain-based watchdog.
News from Syria is difficult to verify as authorities have barred most foreign media from the country since a pro-democracy uprising started in March last year.
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