As the fighting in Syria intensifies, “there are more tangible indications that such weapons could reach Lebanon,” the official said.
Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, including bombs and rockets tipped with chemical warheads, remains for now under government control, according to Israeli assessments.
“The [intelligence] monitoring of the Syrian chemical weapons depots is quite strict, so there’s a fairly good chance that any movement would be detectable,” said Dany Shoham, a former military intelligence analyst and an expert on unconventional weapons at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
Nizar Abdul Kader, a Lebanese analyst and retired general, said that Israeli reconnaissance missions are keeping an eye on roads between Syria and Lebanon and that any preparation for movement of advanced weaponry is likely to provoke an Israeli strike. He said Hezbollah has stored heavy weapons and long-range missiles in Syria but is not likely to expose them by transferring them under current conditions.
With the Syrian army preoccupied with internal fighting and Hezbollah wary of jeopardizing its position in Lebanon as its Syrian sponsor weakens, neither is likely to risk wider conflict by retaliating against Israel for the Jan. 30 strike, according to the Israeli official and analysts.
“The Syrians are interested in keeping the civil war in Syria, where they are militarily much stronger than the rebels,” Yadlin said. “Against external forces, they would be inferior.”
“If Hezbollah attacked [Israel], they would basically be admitting that the air defense system was on its way to them, infuriating the Russians” who supplied the weapons to Syria with the understanding that they would not be moved to Hezbollah, he said.
Still, Yadlin cautioned, every additional Israeli strike would raise the risk of escalation.
“The decision makers have to reevaluate every time,” he said. “It’s not a mathematical equation.”
Dehghanpisheh and Suzan Haidamous reported from Beirut.