TEL AVIV — The chemical threat from Syria has plunged over the past year to the point that Israeli planners did not include gas-tipped missile strikes among the doomsday scenarios driving this year's annual emergency homefront drill.
Speaking Monday on day two of a five-day nationwide drill, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the chemical threat to Israeli citizens has dropped significantly as a result of international pressure to demilitarize Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.
As evidence of the dwindled threat, and the relative success of a September 2013 US-Russia agreement that led to the removal and destruction of declared Syrian stockpiles, Ya'alon cited recent use of chlorine bombs by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"The Syrian regime today uses against its citizens substances that are not exactly chemical weapons … which points to the fact that he [Assad] lost his ability to wage chemical attacks in the manner that he had in the past."
Ya'alon said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would continue to train in the event it needed to face chemical weapons on the battlefield.
But given Assad's depleted arsenals and his preoccupation with surviving Syrian insurgents and radical Sunnis from the Islamic State, "the threat to Israeli citizens has been significantly reduced."