Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently stated
that his country would consider taking military action against Syria. The circumstances he outlined were ones that would see Islamist extremists getting their hands on Syria's chemical weapons. The stockpile that the Assad regime has recently taken steps to ensure is secure in the war ravaged state. The stockpile of which the Syrian regime has also declared it has no intention of using on the opposition forces fighting inside Syria, but has said it may use against any external attackers.
Israel in 2007 launched an air strike into Syrian territory against what was allegedly a nuclear reactor being constructed with the aid of North Korea. Israel also destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in an air strike back in 1981. Israel has also continually stressed over the past few years that it will not rule out launching air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities if it cannot find any other means to prevent that country from acquiring the means to construct nuclear weapons.
The summer 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon saw Israeli forces pummeling Hezbollah's infrastructure across Lebanon, whilst simultaneously bearing the brunt of Hezbollah rocket attacks on its northern regions. The war displaced hundreds of thousands on both sides, Hezbollah through its survival and Israel's inability to completely destroy and dismember it declared the war to be a success even though they had suffered far more casualties and losses compared to the low Israeli casualties. Nevertheless, the militia has garnered a substantial amount of missiles -- that number more than most conventional armies -- and is outspoken about its preparedness for another war with Israel.
It has become common knowledge that this militia is aiding the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in its fight against the armed Syrian opposition. Whilst there have been some tensions alongside the Israeli-Syrian border region of the Golan Heights one can wager that Assad won't be starting any conventional war with Israel any time soon, especially since his forces are at present spread across the country (and several reinforcements are heading north to reassert regime control over the country's largest city Aleppo) doing their utmost to assert control over these ragtag rebel groups.
The Israeli governments stated fear, therefore, seems to reside in the possibility of a violent ouster of Assad that could see his biological and chemical warfare shells fall into the hands of some of the more radical Sunni extremist elements of a victorious opposition. Or a fear that if Assad falls, the chemicals could be passed on to Hezbollah, giving that militant organization a WMD capability, adding a substantial edge to its already considerable deterrent capabilities.
The United States has also sent a token force of troops to neighbouring Jordan to monitor the status of Syria's WMD's, one can naturally assume that the Israelis and the Americans are sharing intelligence about any developments with regard to these chemicals. The Israelis also doubtlessly have a plan of action to take should the volatile situation in Syria worsen to the point that security of these chemicals under the regime could be jeopardized. Israel's contingency plan under such circumstance could see to some sort of a 'military option' as Netanyahu said a few days ago. Whether it would be an air strike or some kind of special forces raid is uncertain. Also uncertain are the geopolitical ramifications if Israel does in fact intervene militarily during the course of the war in Syria.
The Syrian Civil War has among other things devolved into a proxy conflict, Sunni Arab Gulf states are funneling arms and capital to the opposition whilst Tehran is pouring aid and capital to its ally Assad. Should Israel intervene in order to destroy Syria's non-conventional armament stocks? One cannot presume that it wouldn't see to Syria's allies in turn retaliating against Israel, which could possibly lead to another Israeli war against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. Something that residents of the north of Israel are actively readying themselves for (Times of Israel
in a report on this
stated that the Rambam Hospital in Haifa is readying to put together a makeshift operating area in the third level of its underground parking lot – that can care for 2,000 patients at a time – for use if war should break out anytime soon).
Israel's ability to counter any conventional threat is quite substantial, nevertheless it cannot be safely assumed that it would be able to completely eliminate the threat of retaliatory missile strikes, neither from Syria or Hezbollah. 1991 Iraqi Scud analogies are an appropriate historical precedent to revise. As we know the Israelis did not retaliate against Iraq during those weeks it was under missile attack. However it had a retaliatory attack plans, as it most certainly has today with regard to the prospect of potential war against combatants north of its border in the near future.