* Israel fears Syria may hand chemical weapons to Hezbollah
* Hezbollah has received support from Syria and Iran
* Israel accuses Hezbollah and Iran of Bulgaria bombing
By Ori Lewis
JERUSALEM, July 20 Israel said on Friday it
would consider military action if needed to ensure Syrian
missiles or chemical weapons did not reach President Bashar
al-Assad's allies in Lebanon, the Shi'ite Islamist movement
"I have instructed the military to increase its intelligence
preparations and prepare what is needed so that ... (if
necessary) ... we will be able to consider carrying out an
operation," Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview on
Channel 10 television.
"We are following ... the possible transfer of advanced
munitions systems, mainly anti-aircraft missiles or heavy
ground-to-ground missiles, but there could also be a
possibility of the transfer of chemical means (weapons) from
Syria to Lebanon," said Barak.
"The moment (Assad) starts to fall we will conduct
intelligence monitoring and will liaise with other agencies."
Hezbollah, which in the past has received military and
financial support from Syria and Iran, launched thousands of
mainly short-range rockets into Israel during the Jewish state's
2006 offensive in southern Lebanon. Some longer-range rockets
reached central Israel.
The Israel-Lebanon border has been largely quiet since then.
Israel has accused Hezbollah and Iran of carrying out a
suicide bombing in Bulgaria on Wednesday that killed five
Israeli tourists at Burgas airport, a popular gateway to the
Black Sea coast. Iran has denied any involvement.
On Thursday, Barak toured the Golan Heights, a strategic
plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the Middle East war
in 1967 and from where it can monitor movements inside its
Syrian rebels assassinated four of Assad's closest aides in
Damascus and seized three border crossings with Iraq and Turkey
this week, putting the Syrian leader under greater pressure than
at any time in the 16-month uprising against his rule.
(Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Tim Pearce and Ralph Gowling)