Netanyahu, Peres Urge Action Against Assad on Chemical Arms

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres called for action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his regime allegedly used chemical weapons against its own people.

“What happened in Syria is a terrible crime and a terrible tragedy,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem today, in remarks broadcast on Army Radio. “The world’s most dangerous regimes must not be allowed to possess the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

Separately, Netanyahu said before meeting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that Iran and Hezbollah “are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria.” Netanyahu didn’t say how he got the information.

The U.S. and U.K. are now examining “all the options” in response to the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said in a statement after he spoke by phone with President Barack Obama.

Some Syrian opposition groups charge the Assad government with killing more than 1,300 people in an Aug. 21 chemical attack on a Damascus suburb. The Syrian government denies the allegations.

“The time has come for a joint effort to remove all the chemical weapons from Syria,” Peres said today at a meeting in Jerusalem with Fabius, according to an e-mailed statement from his office. “They cannot remain there, either in the hands of Assad, or of others.”

Air Strikes

Netanyahu has said Israel will act as necessary to keep Syrian chemical weapons stores and other advanced arms from falling into the hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other militant groups. Israel is suspected of carrying out three air strikes this year against Syrian arms convoys and military installations, according to security analysts.

Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz said today that while chances were “relatively slim” that Syria would strike Israel in response to a U.S.-led military attack, Israel has to be prepared for the possibility. “We have to be ready both in terms of defense and offense,” Steinitz said in remarks broadcast on Army Radio.

The number of requests to an Israeli government center that supplies gas masks soared today to three times the daily average, Postal Service deputy spokeswoman Fiona Shai said by phone.

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