Washington, July 13- The Syrian regime is moving its stockpiles of chemical weapons out of storage facilities, a move that has both confounded and worried U.S. and Israeli officials, according to a Wall Street Journal Report.
The purpose of the effort is still unclear to Western officials. The embattled regime, led by President Bashar Assad, may be moving the weapons to protect them from terrorists and opponents of the government or even preparing to use them against rebel forces fighting against the government, according to U.S. officials interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
"This could set the precedent of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] being used under our watch," one U.S. official said. "This is incredibly dangerous to our national security."
Opposition leaders and western governments estimate that as many as 15,000 people have been killed by the regime in nearly 16 months of uprising against the Assad regime.
For now, Israel officials believe the relocation of Syria’s undeclared chemical stockpile, which reportedly includes mustard gas as well as nerve agents such as Sarin, Tabun and VX, means Damascus is trying to protect its arsenal from more dangerous elements.
"It is dispersed and under the control of a dedicated army unit that has a high degree of loyalty to the regime and is commanded by senior Alawites [Assad's sect]," a senior Israeli official told The Guardian Friday. "It has not been involved in the nitty-gritty of fighting. It has been impacted by it but has not been used to fight the people. There are signs that Syria has understood the problem."
Yet Israel is still concerned about such weapons, fearing that they could fall into the terror group Hezbollah, which in 2006 rained thousands of rockets down on northern Israel during a month-long conflict, Ehud Eilam, an Israeli national security expert, told a conference call Wednesday hosted by The Israel Project.