With violence mounting, the growing threat to President Bashar Assad's regime is raising concern in Israel that weapons from Syria's military could fall into the hands of terrorist groups, defense officials told Haaretz on Monday.
Following the bloody weekend assault on Homs by Assad's forces, Israeli defense sources said large amounts of weapons could be transferred to Hezbollah, in Lebanon, or to other organizations.
The weapons include advanced SA missiles, high-trajectory long-range rockets and missiles, and biological and chemical weapons, the officials said.
Speaking last week at the Herzliya Conference, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen in Syria. We're watching for attempts to pass advanced weapons systems that could edge the delicate balance in Lebanon to Hezbollah."
Incoming Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel told foreign journalists in Jerusalem last month that, as far as Assad's fall is concerned, "the question is when, not if. And the big question is what will happen the following day."
Eshel said Israel's immediate concern is Syria's huge cache of chemical and biological weapons - coming mainly from East European states - and into whose hands it will fall.
"What has been passed on to Hezbollah so far? What will be passed on in the future? What will be divided between the two factions in Syria?" he asked.
Israel has been warning for several years that Syria may provide Hezbollah with advanced weapons systems. The foreign media reported that Hezbollah has maintained training bases and arsenals in Syria, near the Lebanon border, since 2008. Arab media reported Syria had moved Scud missiles to Hezbollah camps in Lebanon and that advanced SA missiles had been set up in the mountains of Lebanon.
Other reports, unconfirmed by Israel, said Israel considered attacking convoys carrying weapons from Syria to Lebanon on several occasions in recent years.
However, the concern is greater now because Assad's forces seem to be losing their grip on the state. This could result in passing weapons to Hezbollah, or in radical Sunni factions taking over the arsenals, the officials said.
After Muammar Gadhafi's regime collapsed in Libya last year, the army's caches were looted and SA missiles and rockets found their way to various terror organizations - from militias in east Africa, to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, officials said.
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