Syria is still in possession of chemical weapons, enough to carry out several more attacks, an IDF officer warned.
Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons, Israeli defense officials said Wednesday, in the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack his soldiers carried out against civilians earlier this month.
The estimate came as the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international watchdog, said laboratory tests provided “incontrovertible” evidence that victims and survivors of the April 4 attack in northern Syria were exposed to sarin nerve gas or a similar banned toxin.
Turkish and British tests have also concluded sarin or a substance similar to the deadly nerve agent was used in the Idlib attack.
The attack killed at least 90 people, including dozens of children.
A senior Israeli military official said Israeli intelligence believes Syrian military commanders ordered the attack, with Assad’s knowledge. Briefing reporters, he said Israel estimates Assad still has “between one and three tons” of chemical weapons.
Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.
Dan Kaszeta, a UK-based chemical weapons expert, said the Israeli estimate appeared to be conservative, but nonetheless was enough to be highly lethal.
“One ton of sarin could easily be used to perpetrate an attack on the scale of the 2013 attack. It could also be used for roughly 10 attacks of a similar size to the recent Khan Sheikhoun attack,” he said.
In response to the April 4 attack, the US fired 59 missiles at a Syrian air base it said was the launching pad for the attack. Israel welcomed the strike. The attack destroyed some 20 percent of Syria’s operational air force planes.
How Much is Assad Hiding?
In 2013, Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert US strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August of that year that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.
Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.
The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed.
Earlier this week, Former Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat ,Assad’s former chemical weapons research chief, told Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper that Syria had “at least 2,000 tons” of chemical weapons before the war and only declared 1,300. He said the Syrian government still possessed hundreds of tons of chemical weapons.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff