Assad said to be stocking up on artillery
IDF officials say Syrian president's recent weaponry acquisitions the highest since 1973
Yoav Zitun, Roi Kais
"Assad's current artillery acquisitions are the highest since 1973," a top military source told Ynet Wednesday, as war-ravaged Syria seems to be sinking deeper into civil war.
The nearly two-year conflict between Syrian President Bashar Assad and the pro-democracy opposition has claimed the lives of over 40,000 people.
According to the IDF, the escalating clashes between Assad's army and rebel forces have prompted the Syrian president to increase his artillery and anti-aircraft missile purchases; which Israel believes amounted to $2-$3 billion over the past two years – more than in the past 40 years combined.
IAF Chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel said last week that "Syria has various weapon systems, including a vast arsenal of unconventional warfare. We have to be prepared for multiple scenarios."
Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the United States and Russia are likely to formulate a plan for a power transition in Syria by February.
According to the report, the agreement will allow the UN Security Council to sponsor a transitional government as part of the United Nations' efforts to stem the bloodshed in the war-ravaged country.
The paper alleged that Russia – which has so far blocked any Security Council resolution against Damascus – has come to terms with the fact that Assad's regime is beyond redemption and is now interested in pursuing a solution that would stop Syria from slipping into anarchy.
Also on Wednesday, the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quoted a Syrian defector, who served in Assad's chemical warfare division, as saying that the Homs bombing in which sarin-like gas was used, was Assad's way of testing the waters vis-à-vis the international community.
The US, EU, NATO and the UN have all warned the Syrian president that using chemical weapons on civilians would carry serious international consequences.
The defector, identified in the report as Abd al-Salam Abd al-Razaq, said that a chemical weapon was used in the shelling, and that "using the gas in Homs was Assad's way of feeling the international community's pulse on the matter."
The gas used, he added "dissipates quickly, allowing Assad's forces to sweep down on the area within 30 minutes."
He further warned that the international community is unlikely to be able to get a sample of the gas "unless you're there when it's being used… Syria has large caches of Sarin, Mustard and Tabun gas."