Netanyahu Warns Syrian Chemical Weapons Could Land in Hezbollah's Hands

Hezbollah weapons storage facility explodes in southern Lebanon, according to Lebanese media reports, which also claim IAF jets violated Lebanese airspace in several incidents on Saturday.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned against the risk of chemical weapons from Syria falling into the hands of Hezbollah.

"It is necessary to look at our surroundings, both at what is happening with Iran and its proxies, and what is happening in other arenas - lethal weaponry in Syria, which is steadily breaking up," Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting.

On Saturday, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying that Iran would consider any attack against Syria as an attack against itself.

These threats, Netanyahu stressed, require Israel to form the largest coalition possible.

"The Middle East is not awaiting for the outcome of election and is not stopping while the [Israeli] government is assembled. We are facing many threats, from the most dangerous ones, which I have mentioned, to others and reality continues to evolve - in the east, in the north, in the south - the entire area is raging and we must prepared and strong and determined in the face of any possible development. For this reason, I will seek to form the widest and most stable government in order to respond, first and foremost, to every security threat," Netanyahu said.

Several Iron Dome anti-missile batteries have recently been deployed to northern Israel, including around Haifa, the IDF confirmed on Sunday. Last week, the IDF conducted an exercise meant to expand the system's capabilities.

The IDF Spokesman's Unit said the batteries were deployed on an experimental basis in various spots around the country, ahead of a more permanent deployment in the near future.

Explosion reported in Lebanon

Meanwhile, on Saturday, an explosion struck a weapons storage facility in an area of southern Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah, according to a report published by the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal.

The report said the explosion took place in the small town of Machghara, located in the Beka'a Valley. It said that a cloud of smoke was seen rising from the site, which was quickly cordoned off by Hezbollah forces.

The report was not confirmed by Lebanon's government or by the Lebanese army. The latter said it had conducted a number of controlled explosions on Saturday of munitions left over from the Second Lebanon War.

The report came amid claims made by the Lebanese army that Israel's Air Force violated Lebanon's airspace on Saturday in four different incidents. Lebanese daily The Daily Star reported that IAF fighter jets were seen flying around the Beka'a Valley.

Last Wednesday, Netanyahu convened a special meeting of defense and military officials to discuss the ongoing civil war in Syria, with particular emphasis on the country's chemical weapons stockpile.

In attendance were Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Mossad intelligence agency chief Tamir Pardo, IDF intelligence director Aviv Kochavi and Israel Air Force commander Amir Eshel.

Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter filled in for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was attending an international economic conference in Davos, Switzerland.

The meeting was extraordinary not for its content but rather for its timing, which came one day after the elections and as politicians were setting out to negotiate the formation of a new government.

Speaking to Army Radio, Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom on Sunday morning said that if needed, Israel would take action to prevent chemical weapons from falling into the hands of Islamic terrorist groups.

"The timing [of the discussion] was determined by the need. It wasn't the first discussion; there were many secret ones before We must keep our eyes open to the possibility that chemical weapons will fall in the hands of Hezbollah," he said.

Former Shin Bet deputy commander MK Israel Hasson (Kadima) told Army Radio that the condition of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile is 'fluid.' Hasson said: "You don't have control. The situation is so fluid that Israel must keep alert and assess [the threats] in case something like that might occur."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. Credit: Emil Salman
UN peacekeepers patrol the Israel-Lebanon border, as seen from the southern Lebanese village of Wazzani, November 28, 2012.Credit: Reuters
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is seen speaking on a giant screen from a secret location, as supporters wave Hezbollah flags, in the southern border town of Bint Jbeil, Lebanon, May 25, 2012. Credit: AP

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