Syria Chemical Weapons: President Obama, in Israel, Says Use in the Arab Civil War Would Be a 'Game-Changer'
Mar 20, 2013 05:35 PM EDT
President Barack Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "game-changer," demanding action from the international community. The president stressed that the U.S. and other nations are still determining whether those weapons were used. During a joint press conference with Israeli Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his first visit to Israel as president, the strife in Syria, along with the Iranian nuclear threat, topped the agenda in their meeting.
"I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer," Obama said. "We have to make sure that we know exactly what happened."
Syrian rebels and President Bashar al Assad's regime accused the other of using these weapons. Israel's new minister of intelligence and strategic affairs Yuval Steinitz said that the weapons were used, however he did not indicate how such a conclusion was reached or which side used them.
"It is apparently clear that chemical weapons against civilians needs to worry us and shows the urgency of taking care of the issue," Steinitz said.
More than 70,000 have been reportedly killed in the attempt to overthrow Assad. It has been estimated that 450,000 have fled to Jordan alone.
Obama declared the use, deployment or transfer of the weapons mark a "red line" for possible U.S. military intervention.
The Syrian state-run SANA news agency said Tuesday "a missile containing a chemical substance" was fired at the village by "terrorists" -- the term it uses for rebels. Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said 31 people were killed.
SANA added that more than 100 others were wounded, some of them critically, and it published pictures showing casualties, including children, on stretchers in what appears to be a hospital ward. None showed signs of physical injuries. The rebels quickly denied using chemical weapons and accused government forces of doing so.
Obama began his presidential visit to Israel on Wednesday, meeting with members of Netanyahu's newly formed coalition. The trip to reach out to the Jewish State comes at a time of great unpredictability as the Arab Spring continues to bear less-than favored expectations for the U.S.
Obama reaffirmed his commitment to Israel's security.
"My job as president is to keep the American people safe. [Netanyahu's] job is to keep Israel safe. In past trips I have visited destroyed homes, I visited Sderot and met children that want to live in peace," he said. "As president I have made it clear that American commitment to Israeli security is non-negotiable, we hold more security and training than ever before. And this includes more support for Iron Dome which has saved lives. America's support for Israel is unprecedented and the connection has never been better as was shown today."