Israel, US brace for growing Iranian threat in Lebanon and Syria

Israel concerned over Iran’s growing involvement in Lebanon; US says information received shows Assad is developing new chemical weapons.

By: Margot Dudkevitch, World Israel News

The Israeli security cabinet will convene a special meeting next Tuesday to discuss the growing involvement of Iran in Lebanon, Channel One reported Thursday night. According to the report, the meeting comes amid Iran’s efforts to strengthen its grip on Lebanon and build a precision missile factory inside the country. Chief of Staff Lt, Gen. Gadi Eisenkot is due to brief the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, when he will deliver his annual assessment of the situation along Israel’s borders, including the situation in Lebanon and Syria.

Footage obtained by Channel One showed Lebanese civilians in recent weeks attempting to provoke IDF soldiers deployed along the border, calling the soldiers names and making rude gestures. Earlier this week, IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis published an Arabic language opinion piece warning Lebanese civilians of the dangers of allowing Iran to operate inside the country and specifically of Iran’s plan to build a missile factory there with its proxy, the Hezbollah terrorist group.

The Israeli army estimates Hezbollah has replenished its weapons stocks since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and is currently estimated to have some 100,000 short-range rockets and missiles. Hezbollah has also extended its tunnel systems near Israel’s border and is able to mobilize close to 30,000 fighters.

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Meanwhile, reports quoting unnamed US State Department officials on Thursday night say intelligence information shows President Bashar Assad is developing new kinds of chemical weapons which he plans to use. This despite a 2013 deal in which Syria vowed to destroy its chemical weapons program.

The officials said they believe the regime is developing these weapons in order to improve its military capability. One official quoted in the foreign media said US President Donald Trump’s administration is prepared to take military action to deter the use of such weapons but also called on the international arena to take action before it is too late.