IAF Chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel warned Tuesday that Israel cannot remain complacent vis-à-vis the growing chaos is Syria and the alarming possibility that the regime's arsenal of nonconventional weapons may find its way to Hezbollah.
Syrian President Bashar Assad is believed to control the world's largest cache of chemical weapons. Hezbollah began setting up bases near several known WMD storage facilities over the weekend.
- Syria: Hezbollah sets up camps near WMD facilities
"Syria is undergoing tectonic changes. Given its massive arsenals, Israel may find itself dealing with nonconventional weapons on its borders," Eshel said.
The IAF chief was speaking in a forum marking the 10-year anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Syria is in possession of state-of-the-art weaponry alongside chemical warfare, he added.
"Our region is going through dramatic changes. Government rise and fall and terror groups are using the vacuum to bolster their operation on our border in a manner we haven’t seen in years," he said.
"We have to deal with a broad spectrum of threats – from the conventional to the unconventional, ranging from knives to nuclear weapons – near and far."
The volatile situation is Syria may force Israel to deal with "Western, Eastern and locally-produced weapons, including surface-to-surface missiles, drones, cruise missiles and unconventional weapons. The point of origin for most of them is almost always Iran.
The Israeli defense establishment uses covert and overt reconnaissance and intelligence gathering methods to deal with this threat, he said.
"The IAF is a full partner in these efforts, at times a leading partner and almost always the exclusive one," he said. "We employ manned and unmanned capabilities and lend the Air Force's innate flexibility to these efforts. This is a 24/7, year-round campaign.
"We cannot wait for war to break out," he cautioned. We have to invest in developing new (surveillance) resources… especially space, which has become a strategic sphere for us. We can't wake up when war breaks out – we can't be ill-prepared."
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