Netanyahu, Israeli lawmakers call for removal of Syrian chemical weapons

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the international community to remove chemical weapons from Syria in the wake of a reported attack in northern Syria that killed dozens.

“When I saw pictures of babies suffocating from a chemical attack in Syria, I was shocked and outraged,” Netanyahu said Tuesday afternoon, hours after reports and photos began circulating of an attack on the rebel-held province of Idlib. “There’s no, none, no excuse whatsoever for the deliberate attacks on civilians and on children, especially with cruel and outlawed chemical weapons.”

Witnesses said toxic gas had been delivered by a government airstrike.

“I call on the international community to fulfil its obligation from 2013 to fully and finally remove these horrible weapons from Syria,” Netanyahu said during the annual state memorial ceremony for president Chaim Herzog.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, called for the world to act against what he termed the “chemical massacre” in Syria, with U.S. President Donald Trump leading the effort. Bennett’s posts on Facebook and Twitter included photos showing dead Syrian children, victims of the attack.

In a statement issued by his office, Bennett also urged Israel to get involved with its neighbour.

“The use of chemical weapons against civilians requires Israel’s security cabinet to rethink its stance,” Bennett said.

Israel has remained on the sidelines of Syria’s more than five-year civil war, though it has treated Syrian injured, both government troops and rebels, on the border and responded when rocket and artillery fire from the fighting has landed on Israel’s side of the Golan Heights.

It is not known what kind of toxic gas caused the death of dozens of Syrian men, women and children. In the past, chlorine attacks have been used to kill Syrian civilians. This attack caused a larger number of deaths, with victims displaying different symptoms, The New York Times reported, citing medics, rescuers and witnesses.

In August 2013, more than 1,000 people were killed in the Damascus area by the banned toxin sarin, leading Syrian President Bashar Assad to agree to eliminate his country’s chemical weapons program, which he had previously denied having.

Other Israeli lawmakers from both the right and left called for the international community to get involved in the wake of the attack.

“The latest attack in Syria and the increase in the rise in the use of chemical weapons show that Assad learned from the silence of the international community that he has an open check and has no problem using it,” Zahava Galon of the left-wing Meretz party wrote in a Facebook post.

In the wake of the attack, France called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

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