In fierce battles with Syrian troops, Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra front is spearheading the rebels’ advance on the two Syrian army’s biggest chemical weapons depots – at the Al-Safira military and air defense base near Aleppo in the north and the Dumeir facilities 40 km northeast of Damascus.
By Tuesday, April 2, the assault force had come within 1.5 kilometers of the Al-Safira complex.
This prompted an urgent visit by Israel’s top security officials to the Golan border for a close assessment of the situation.
The group surveying the situation from the IDF position at Tel Hazaka was led by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and OC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Yair Golan.
On his first visit to the Golan border, the defense minister said that Israel had in the past and would in the future prevent the proliferation of weapons that could “threaten us.”
Yaalon was the first leading Israeli figure to state clearly that Israel would act to prevent the proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons – whether to the al Qaeda or Hizballah terrorist organizations.
His words came after the rebels Monday seized from the Syrian army the town of al-Safira from which they continued to push forward toward the sprawling air, air-defense and artillery base itself.
As Syrian defenses weakened, the troops fighting there and in the Damascus region were issued with anti-contamination suits and gas masks.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources add that the possible fall of the strategic al-Safira base into rebel hands, especially the Islamist militias, was one of the highest items on the agenda of US President Barack Obama’s talks with Israeli and Jordanian leaders in Jerusalem and Amman in the third week of March.
He supervised plans for coordinated US-Israeli-Jordanian-Turkish action in Syria in the event of a direct threat of chemical warfare.
The minister and the generals spent time on the Golan border with Syria on final checks to make sure that the IDF units were well prepared for possible action to prevent al Qaeda procuring chemical weapons of mass destruction.