Hagel urges caution on Syria chemical weapons claims

Updated 29 April 2013
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Hagel urges caution on Syria chemical weapons claims

CAIRO: US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged caution Wednesday over an Israeli claim Syria’s regime used chemical weapons, saying it was “serious business” and any evidence had to be weighed carefully.
Warning against a possible rush to judgment, Hagel indicated he had been caught off guard by allegations from an Israeli general this week that Syria had fired chemical agents against rebels in recent months.
“When I was in Israel they did not give me that assessment. I guess it wasn’t complete,” Hagel told reporters in Cairo on a tour of the Middle East that included a three-day visit to Israel.
The United States has warned any use or transfer of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and possibly trigger military action.
Britain and France also suspect Syria has used chemical weapons but Hagel said US intelligence agencies were still evaluating information and were not yet convinced.
“Suspicions are one thing, evidence is another,” he said.
The Pentagon chief added that “this is serious business and you want to be as sure as you can be on these kind of things.”
Asked if US credibility could be at risk as it has repeatedly referred to a “red line,” Hagel said: “I don’t think there’s any danger.”
The United States cooperates with other spy services but ultimately had to rely “on its own intelligence,” he said before departing for Abu Dhabi.
Hagel’s comments marked his first public reaction since the Israeli military’s assessment came to light.
While Hagel was wrapping up his visit to Israel on Tuesday morning, Israeli Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, head of the research and analysis division of military intelligence, grabbed headlines when he alleged Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime had used chemical agents — mostly likely sarin gas — more than once.
“To the best of our professional understanding, the (Assad) regime has made use of deadly chemical weapons against the rebels in a number of incidents in the last few months,” Brun told a security conference in Tel Aviv.


Israeli planes strike Hamas targets in Gaza

Updated 18 June 2018
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Israeli planes strike Hamas targets in Gaza

  • The attacks targeted two Hamas military sites and a munitions manufacturing site
  • “Fire balloons” and kites carrying flammable material have become symbols of the Palestinian border protests in recent months

JERUSALEM: Israeli warplanes on Monday conducted strikes against nine Hamas “military targets” in the northern Gaza Strip in response to incendiary kites being sent into Israeli territory, the army said.
The attacks targeted two Hamas military sites and a munitions manufacturing site, the military said in a statement, without specifying whether the raids had resulted in casualties.
“Fire balloons” and kites carrying flammable material have become symbols of the Palestinian border protests in recent months.
The Israeli army on Saturday wounded two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip attempting to launch incendiary balloons across the border into Israel, officials said.
Since major border protests broke out at the end of March, more than 300 fires have devastated several thousand hectares of fields and shrubland, the Israeli fire service has said.
According to Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, 400 kites have been intercepted from some 600 launched since the start of the recent protests.
At least 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire in the same time span. No Israelis have been killed.
Palestinians are calling to return to the homes their families fled or were forced from in 1948 during the war surrounding the creation of Israel.
The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas which Israel considers its chief enemy.
The two sides have fought three wars since 2008 and observe a tense cease-fire.