In a remarkable reversal, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Abdu Dhabi Thursday afternoon, April 25, that the US intelligence community believes the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its own people, determining with "varying degrees of confidence" that Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have used the nerve agent sarin against civilians and forces fighting to remove Assad from power.
The White House is informing Congress about the chemical weapons use now, Hagel said, hours after he voiced reservations about the assessment Tuesday by senior Israeli military intelligence officer Brig. Gen. Itai Brun that the Assad regime had begun to practice chemical warfare.
Earlier Thursday, Israel Air Force F-16 warplanes downed a Hizballah drone 8 kilometers out at sea from the big port of Haifa. It flew south from the direction of Lebanon. Witnesses on Haifa’s Mt. Carmel watched the smoke trails of the Israeli jets and heard exploding rockets.
Israeli Navy ships are out searching for debris in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Israeli army spokesman issued a statement: An attempt by an unmanned aerial vehicle to enter Israel’s air space was thwarted. The UAV was identified flying from the north past the coast of southern Lebanon and continuing south. It was tracked continuously until it was downed by Israeli fighter planes and attack helicopters.
They went into action after the drone was identified as not coming from a friendly source. The Air Force gave the order to shoot it down.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “We take an extremely grave view of this attempt to violate our borders and will continue to guard them and keep our citizens safe.” He added, “We are watching events in Syria and Lebanon with extreme concern. Syria is breaking up and Lebanon is unstable. Both places pose not inconsiderable perils to Israel – two emanating directly from Syria. The first is the possible transfer of sophisticated weaponry to terrorist organizations and the second, attempts by terrorists to break through our borders and attack our towns and villages. Israel stands ready to counteract any threats from Syria or Lebanon by sea, air and land.”
debkafile adds: The drone, which was launched from the Lebanese coast of Sidon towards the Israeli coast, was but the first move in a larger plan. Just as the Syrian civil war is already spilling over into Lebanon and threatens to crash through another border into Jordan, there are plans afoot to spread the violence into Israel.
The Hizballah’s UAV intrusion thwarted by the Israeli Air Force and the repeated shooting attacks from the Syrian side of the Golan were omens of more to come. Syria’s Bashar Assad, Hizballah and Iran will not put up with any intervention in the Syrian conflict by the US, Israel, Jordan or Turkey – even though foreign intervention is already present in the form of 3,000 Hizballah commandoes fighting with Assad’s army in Qusayr and Damascus sectors.