Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai reports that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has moved chemical weapons from a base near the capital Damascus to the port city of Tartus, raising fears that they could fall into the hands of extremist groups like Hezbollah. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanese-based Hezbollah, insists that his organization doesn’t have chemical weapons and that it wouldn’t use them since Islamic law forbids them. Lebanese newspaper Al-Nahar reports that Nasrallah’s words may have come at the urging of a Russian envoy who recently travelled to Beirut to warn him against accepting the weapons. Israeli authorities have expressed concerns that fighting may spill over from Syria into Israeli controlled territories in the Golan Heights, where chemical weapons could be used by militant groups against Israeli targets. Many fear that growing desperation among Assad and his supporters may drive the regime to use them against the opposition. Last month, US President Barack Obama issued a strong warning that the White House would consider military intervention if Assad deploys or uses chemical weapons. Others speculate that Assad is moving the weapons to Tartus since it is in one of the few regions where Assad’s Alawite sect makes up the majority. King Abdullah II of Jordan has told American television network CBS that he believes Assad could try to create a mini-state in the Alawite stronghold if he loses control of the capital.
There was a heavy military presence on the streets of Tripoli on Thursday, following clashes which have been ongoing since Monday between rival pro- and anti-Damascus gunmen in the northern Lebanese city. Armoured personnel carriers and troops could be seen on the street of the Bab Tabbaneh neighbourhood, which is mostly populated by Sunni Muslims. At least six people have been killed since Monday in clashes between Bab Tabbaneh and neighbouring Jabal Moshen, which is populated mostly by followers of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The downward spiral in Syria has serious implications for all its neighbors. Yossi Alpher looks at the various scenarios, not all of which are bad for Israel.