TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The Syrian regime is desperate enough to use anything to stay in power including using poisonous gases against civilians, an Israeli think-tank report says.
The 12-page report, issued by the International Institute for Counter Terrorism in Herzliya Sunday, reveals Syria has one of the largest chemical weapons arsenals in the world, including traditional chemical agents such as mustard as well as sarin gas and VX nerve agents.
Syria has been accumulating stockpiles of chemical weapons since the 1980s and is estimated to have about 1,000 tons stored in about 50 cities mostly, primarily in the north of the country, the report says.
Western specialists believe the chemical weapons production facilities for sarin and VX are located at five sites -- al-Safira, Hama, Homs, Latakia and Palmyra. Storage facilities are located al-Furqlus, Dumayram Khan Abu Shamat and the Scientific and Research Center (Centre d'Etude et Recherche Scientifique -- CERS), the report says. The CERS site, located in Damascus, is the principal facility for chemical and biological research, development and testing, and production and storage, the report says.
The regime of President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on at least four occasions between March and May, killing an estimated 100 to 150 Syrians, the report alleges. This was before hundreds of civilians died in a gas attack near Damascus that the United States and others charge was carried out by Assad's forces. The report noted that Syrian and Russian officials have accused rebel forces of responsibility for chemical attacks against civilians.
Besides the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, there is a real and immediate threat that these weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, a strong ally of the regime that have also dispatched thousands of fighters to Syria, the report notes.
Chemical weapons could also fall into the hands of pro-Syrian Palestinian organizations, the Free Syrian Army or various Islamist jihadist factions, the report warns. Because of this, it is critical to continue monitoring the movement of Syrian government and opposition forces in order to evaluate in which areas the control of chemical weapons could be lost, the report notes.