JERUSALEM – Israel’s prime minister declined to rule out the possibility of providing arms to Syrian rebel groups, saying in a television interview broadcast Thursday that the decision of whether to intervene in the neighboring civil war is a “complicated question.”
Although Benjamin Netanyahu made no clear commitments, his comments indicated that he is at least considering a shift away from two years of neutrality in the Syrian civil war that pits rebels against President Bashar Assad’s regime. Key Israeli allies, including the U.S. and Jordan, already have begun assisting secular and moderate factions inside Syria.
Israel has been warily watching the fighting in Syria since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011. Although Assad is a bitter enemy, Israel has been careful not to take sides, in part because the Assad family has kept the border with Israel quiet for the past 40 years and in part because of fears of what will happen if he is toppled.
Israeli officials are especially concerned that Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons and other advanced arms could reach the hands of Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon or other hostile groups in the region.