IDF General warns on Syria and 'existential war' facing Israel

Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh

Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh

A senior figure in the Israeli army has warned that Syria is home to "the world's largest arsenal of chemical weapons".

Speaking at a ceremony to mark three decades since the battle of Sultan Yacoub between Israeli and Syrian troops during the first Lebanon war, Maj Gen Yair Naveh cautioned that little had changed in the intervening period.

Maj Gen Naveh, who is the deputy chief of staff of the IDF, said that the reality was "that the neighbourhood has not changed".

"The Middle East still has the same players. Unfortunately, we are slowly returning to the reality of an existential war, a ritual that has spanned generations."

Noting Syria's capacity to attack Israel with rockets and missiles, and the Assad regime's links with the terrorist group Hizbollah, he said the IDF needed to prepare for existential threats from the northern border.

"We had hoped for 40 years of quiet, but we were obviously wrong," he said. "Those Syrians who do that to their own people will do the same thing to us if they get the chance".

Twenty-one Israeli soldiers were killed during the fighting in Lebanon on June 11 1982, while three - Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman – were captured by the Syrians and remain on the list of Israel's missing in action soldiers.

Last updated: 5:08pm, June 12 2012