Netanyahu tells Israeli ministers to stay silent on Syria

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his ministers to keep silent about Syria to avoid the impression Israel is pushing the international community into armed intervention, army radio said Sunday.

Netanyahu gave the instructions after Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin suggested the international community might react militarily to "take control of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal."

The radio station reported Netanyahu sought to avoid that Elkin's words be seen as an Israeli attempt to push the United States into launching a military operation in Syria.

The political commentator on military radio said that "U.S. hesitancy over the Syrian issue in the last few days, however, is causing a great deal of worry in Israel".

"If (U.S. President) Barack Obama does not respect the red lines that he set out himself and does not intervene when Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons against civilians, it is showing weaknesses that could cost it dearly later in Syria, but also in the Iranian nuclear question," the commentator added.

Britain and France have accused Damascus of using chemical arms, and on Thursday U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said "the U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale".

An Israeli military intelligence official on Tuesday accused Assad's forces of using chemical weapons in his war against the rebels.

Obama has warned the Syrian regime against using its chemical weapons arsenal on several occasions, saying such a move would be a "game changer" and speaking of "red lines" Damascus must not cross.

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