Israel warns of attack on Syria

JERUSALEM — Israel could launch a preemptive strike to stop Syria’s chemical weapons from reaching Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Al Qaeda-inspired groups, officials said Sunday.

The warning came as the military moved a rocket defense system to a main northern city, and Israel’s premier warned of dangers from Syria and Iran.

Israel has long expressed concerns that President Bashar Assad of Syria, clinging to power during a 22-month civil war, could lose control over his chemical weapons.


Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Sunday that Israel’s top security officials held a special meeting last week to discuss Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. The fact of the meeting, held the morning after a national election, had not been made public before.

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Shalom told the Army Radio station that the transfer of weapons to violent groups, particularly the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, would be a game changer.

‘‘It would be crossing a line that would demand a different approach, including even action,’’ he said. Asked whether this might mean a preemptive attack, he said: ‘‘We will have to make the decisions.’’

In Syria on Sunday, government warplanes and artillery attacked rebel positions in the suburbs east and south of Damascus. Fighting closed the highway to Daraa and clashes continued in the strategic central province of Homs and the eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

Meetings on the crisis in Syria are planned for Monday, when the main exile opposition group and its international backers will convene in Paris and other rebel leaders will meet in Geneva.

Associated Press