JERUSALEM — Israel is warning of possible military intervention in Syria to prevent chemical or biological weapons from falling into the hands of militant groups.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom revealed Sunday that Israel's top security officials held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the danger of Syria's stockpile of unconventional weapons falling into hands of the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon. It was the first public mention of the meeting.
Mr. Shalom said the Syrian government might be in danger of losing control of its weapon stores, and he told Army Radio that the transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah would require an appropriate response.
"It would be crossing a line that would demand a different approach, including even action," he said.
Israel also fears that such weapons might find their way into the hands of more militant groups affiliated with al Qaeda that have been taking a prominent part in the Syrian uprising.
The Israeli news outlet YNet reported Sunday that Hezbollah has set up several bases in Syria close to locations at which the Syrian army is known to have stores of chemical weapons.
Residents of northern Israel reported unusual Israeli air force activity Friday night and Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, when the air force usually does not fly.
In apparent anticipation of a serious flare-up along its border with Lebanon — and possibly Syria — Israel has shifted two batteries of its Iron Dome missile defense system to the north from the area of Gaza, where they helped down hundreds of rockets in November.
Israel has gritted its teeth over the transfer of some 50,000 rockets and missiles from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah during the past seven years.
But it has indicated that it draws the line at the transfer of chemical or biological weapons, which are regarded as weapons of mass destruction.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, cut short his trip Friday and returned home because of the rising concern over the situation.
Meanwhile, Lebanese newspapers reported an explosion of a large Hezbollah ammunition dump in the Beka'a Valley on Saturday.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro was invited Sunday to what was described by Israeli officials as an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Addressing the Cabinet on Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu warned of the security threats facing Israel from Iran and its allies in the region, particularly Syria and Hezbollah
"Everything is in ferment, and we must be prepared, strong and determined in the face of all possible developments," the prime minister said.