JERUSALEM (AA) - Israel has vowed a “punishing response” if the Syrian regime deploys chemical weapons near its border, Israeli media reported Thursday.
“The Foreign Ministry fears poison gas may leak into Israel if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons against rebels near the Golan Heights and has reportedly warned of a punishing response should such a situation unfold,” the Times of Israel news website reported.
The ministry, the newspaper added, had sent a classified message to 15 Israeli ambassadors overseas, providing them with “guidelines for sending strong messages against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah”.
According to the Times of Israel, the message instructed the diplomats to make clear “that such an incident [i.e., the use of chemical weapons near the border] would require Israel to respond in the strongest possible terms”.
“We must convey the message that Israel… will defend itself, its citizens, and its sovereignty,” the message read, according to the newspaper.
The message also reportedly warned that Iran’s military successes in Syria could encourage it to stage attacks on Israel, which, it warned, could lead to an escalation of hostilities across the entire region.
The latest developments come amid mounting tension in the region after an Israeli F-16 was shot down over Syrian territory on Saturday.