By Ryan Jones
Various Western, Arab and Israeli media reports have been claiming for over a month now that Israeli special forces are on the ground in Syria in an effort to keep tabs on its chemical weapons stockpile.
Those reports mesh well with news that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited neighboring Jordan this week to discuss with King Abdullah a possible air strike on the bulk of Syria's weapons of mass destruction. Such an air strike would require targeting groups to be on the ground.
On Thursday, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon said that American forces were also gearing up for possible intervention in Syria should the embattled regime of dictator Bashar Assad employ chemical weapons against rebels.
US President Barack Obama has already stated that the use of chemical weapons by Assad would be a "red line."
Despite a flurry of reports earlier this week that Assad's forces had in fact used chemical weapons against rebels in several battles, Ya'alon told Israel Radio that there was no evidence of this being true. More likely, the reports were an attempt to elicit attacks on Assad's regime by outside forces.
PM: We will respond to any threat
For Israel, the real fear is that Syria's sizable chemical weapons stockpile will fall into the hands of the rebels, who are turning out not to be the "good-guy freedom fighters" many in the West portray them as.
"It is enough that only a tiny percentage of [Syria's chemical weapons] fall into the hands of elements that are part of the Global Jihad organizations and find a way outside of Syria to create an unprecedented terror threat," wrote security expert Amir Rapaport in the journal Israel Defense.
On Sunday, the Jordan-based leader of one of the Syrian rebel groups said that after toppling Assad, Syria's new rulers will turn their guns on Israel.
"We tell Benjamin Netanyahu...get ready. The army of the Prophet Mohammad is coming your way," declared Abed Shihadeh, who added that after "taking Damascus" his group and its allies will "head for Tel Aviv."
Christian Persecution Persists
These are the same groups that, as they fight against Assad, are also threatening and persecuting local Christians.
For instance, this week a rebel group posted a video on the Internet warning the Christian towns of Mharda and Sqilbiya to stop permitting Syrian government forces to take up positions there (as if they have a choice) or face a merciless rebel attack.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noted that the two threatened towns used to have populations in the tens of thousands, but that most locals have already fled.
A UN investigation concluded this week that Syria's civil war is becoming increasingly sectarian, and that minority groups, like Christians, are in more danger than ever.
Top rebel leaders rejected that assessment and insisted that the revolution is "neither bloody nor sectarian."
However, Egyptian television recently aired an address by one Syrian rebel leader, Ahmad Al Baghdadi Al Hassani, who warned that Syria's Christians are "friends of the Zionists" and must choose between "Islam and death."
- Israel will do everything to protect itself from Syrian chemical weapons, PM says • Times of Israel
- Yaalon: U.S. Preparing to Intervene in Syria • Arutz Sheva
- U.S. officials: Syria using more accurate, Iranian-made missiles • CNN
- 'We will respond to any threat' • Israel Hayom
- Difficult Christmas for Syria's Christians • Christian Today