JERUSALEM – Israeli President Shimon Peres called Sunday for an international effort to “take out” chemical weapons in Syria after claims President Bashar al-Assad’s regime used them in a deadly attack.
“The time has come to make a joint effort to take out all the chemical weapons from Syria,” Peres said, without elaborating if he envisioned this being achieved through military strikes or otherwise.
The chemical arms, Peres said, “cannot remain there, whether in the hands of Assad or the hands of other people.”
“It’s very complicated, very expensive, but it will be more expensive and more dangerous to keep” the situation as it is, said the Israeli leader.
Doctors Without Borders said that 355 people of the thousands treated at three hospitals died with “neurotoxic” symptoms stemming from attacks on Wednesday near Damascus.
The Assad regime and its opponents accuse each other of carrying out the attacks.
“I think it’s unprecedented what’s happening in Syria,” said Peres.
“I can’t believe that there has been the most unbelievable war crime which is the use of chemical weapons to kill hundreds of women and children,” he said in remarks ahead of talks with visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
For his part, Fabius reiterated the French stance that “everything indicates a chemical massacre, and its very heavy responsibility falls on Bashar Al Assad”.
“We don’t understand the absence of a strong reaction by the international community after the facts have been proven.
“If the international community stays silent in front of such massacre, the people will wonder who or what can we trust,” the French minister warned.
Fabius was in Jerusalem for talks with senior Israeli officials, after Saturday meetings with the Palestinian president and prime minister.
Speaking ahead of his weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the reported chemical weapons attacks in Syria “a terrible tragedy and a terrible crime”.
“Our hearts go out to the women, babies and children who were hit so cruelly by weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “This situation cannot continue.”
Netanyahu said the alleged attack was further proof “the world’s most dangerous regimes cannot have possession over the world’s most dangerous weapons”.
The premier, who was set to meet Fabius later in the day, said Israel was closely monitoring Syria and would be ready to take action if it felt at risk.
“Our finger is a responsible finger, and if necessary it can be on the trigger,” he said. “We will always know to protect our citizens.”
Israeli officials have taken care to not voice support of foreign military intervention in Syria, as the US said it was ready to take action there but still evaluating the claims of a chemical weapons attack.
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that “the massive use of chemical weapons and the terrible pictures of hundreds of dead children won’t be able to pass without a reaction” from the international community.
“If I must make an assessment — there will be some sort of reaction by the international community, the US, maybe other states,” he told army radio.