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Israel

Israeli Officials Believe U.S. Will Act After Chemical Attacks in Syria

IDF chief of staff Benny Ganz (center) in a file photo
IDF chief of staff Benny Ganz (center) in a file photo
Ron Ben-Yishay

TEL AVIV Israeli officials are under the impression that the United States soon will conduct a Syrian military operation even without a decision from the U.N. Security Council. This comes after a Friday phone call between U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey and Israeli Army chief of staff Benny Gantz.

A top Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) official says that the two parties discussed a variety of topics urgent to the Middle East, the most important being the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the latest events in Lebanon. If and when there is hard evidence of the chemical attack, Israeli officials predict the United States will operate even without a go-ahead from the Security Council.

Media outlets have recalled the war in Kosovo — when the United States, backed by NATO, attacked Serbian forces after Russia blocked a decision by the U.N. Security Council. The justification was to protect a large population of vulnerable civilians.

The impression in Israel is that if the U.S. does conduct a military operation in Syria, it would be a limited but effective undertaking meant to send a message to Assad — namely, that the international community will not accept the use of weapons of mass destruction on civilians or anyone else.

War ships in approach

U.S. President Barack Obama has been meeting in recent days with top U.S. security officials to discuss possible reactions to last week’s chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria.

White House officials explained that the president’s national security advisors are discussing possibilities with him, and this comes after the Pentagon announced it was moving warships to the Middle East in anticipation of a military attack.

A U.S. Defense Department official told The Washington Post that four destroyers were in the Mediterranean Sea near Syria, a position from which they could fire cruise missiles. The U.S. Army typically retains just three warships of this type in the region, but military officials ordered a ship that had been scheduled to leave to instead stay in anticipation of an attack.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Western Tanks To Ukraine Trigger Russian Threats — But Also Fears Of Major Counterattack

Germany and the U.S. overcame months of reluctance in the past 24 hours to commit to sending heavy combat tanks to Ukraine. Russia responded with official bluster, but others in Moscow fear that the tanks delivery could be a gamechanger on the battlefield.

Picture of recently mobilized Russian troops

Recently mobilized Russian troops getting ready to depart for service

Cameron Manley

A week of growing expectations of a coming Russian offensive was turned on its head Wednesday as Germany and the U.S. announced their intention to send heavy combat tanks to Ukraine.

The sudden show of resolve on supplying tanks — after months of reluctance, particularly from Germany — has prompted some Russians to fear that Ukraine will now be equipped for a major counterattack. That would be significant reversal after speculation had been growing this month about a Russian spring offensive.

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government confirmed Wednesday morning that Berlin plans to send at least 14 German-built Leopard 2 tanks to the frontline. U.S. media also reported that Joe Biden’s administration is expected to officially announce Washington's commitment, with at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks expected to be sent.

The timeline remains unclear as to when the vehicles would make it into combat. Still, both sides on the war acknowledged that it is a significant development with the potential to change the math on the battlefield.

Official Russian response was loaded with typical incendiary rhetoric. Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to Russian president Vladimir Putin, said the new tanks would "burn like all the rest, only these ones are expensive.”

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