Does Israel have chemical munitions?

The current furore over the use of chemical weapons in Syria has also drawn attention to Israel’s alleged chemical capabilities.

Israel is a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention which forbids the production and storage of chemical weapons and components, but it has not ratified its signature. Official Israeli sources have never acknowledged any chemical warfare capabilities but, unlike its nuclear capability, which is also officially unacknowledged, there is very little evidence of any chemical development.

The Biological Institute in Nes Ziona is often mentioned by the media as a centre of research into chemical weapons. However, its research is mainly centered on monitoring and developing antidotes and defence capabilities.

This week, Foreign Policy magazine reported a hitherto unknown CIA intelligence assessment from 1983 that mentioned “a probable CW [chemical weapon] nerve agent production facility and a storage facility” near Dimona in the Negev Desert. According to the assessment, Israel developed its chemical weapons in response to the capabilities in that field of its Arab enemies and the use of poison gas by the Egypt in the 1960s.

While there has been no evidence of Israel developing delivery systems for such weapons, neither is there evidence of Israel having used them in battle.

Despite a number of media reports on the use of phosphorus bombs in Operation Cast Lead, these were all smoke-screen shells similar to standard Nato-issue bombs also used by British and US forces.

Last updated: 10:45am, September 13 2013