After the United States revealed last
week that it now believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical
weapons against rebel forces, the Israel Air Force
reportedly struck a Syrian chemical
weapons site near Damascus over the weekend.

The Free Syrian
Army (FSA) rebel group posted a video of smoke rising from a chemical weapons
site that it claims Israeli jets struck on Saturday, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported. FSA said the jets flew
over the palace of Assad before the strike, and that a Syrian air defense
battery went on to fire at the jets. Neither Israeli nor Syrian officials have
confirmed the reported strike.

Corroborating an earlier Israeli intelligence assessment,
White House aide Miguel Rodriguez wrote last
week in letters to Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the leaders of
the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the U.S. intelligence community “does
assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used
chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent
sarin,” the Wall Street Journal
reported. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also confirmed that policy shift
while touring the Middle East last week.

Earlier in the week, the head of the Israel Defense
Forces Military Intelligence Research Branch, Brig. Gen. Itay Baron, had said
that the Syrian government used lethal chemical weapons, mainly sarin gas,
against armed rebels several times over the few weeks and is continuing to do

reports indicate a
mounting presence of Islamic terror groups within Syria’s rebel forces, complicating
options for Western policymakers to address the Syrian civil war.

According to a
report in the New York Times, Islamic
groups have provided basic government and local services such as running
bakeries, controlling power plants and providing medical services in
rebel-controlled areas.

Local residents
have grown to respect the Islamic groups who receive funding and weapons from
sympathetic donors in the Arab Gulf states. As a result, Islamic commanders have
risen up the Syrian rebel ranks, now controlling many positions in the rebel
umbrella group, the Supreme Military Council.

The biggest
concern for the West is a U.S.-designated foreign terror group, the Al-Nusra
Front, which has direct ties to Al-Qaeda in Iraq and has pledged loyalty to
Al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another prominent terror group is Ahrar
al-Sham, which is made up primarily of native Syrians.

“My sense is that there are no seculars,” Elizabeth O’Bagy of
the Institute for the Study of War, who has recently interviewed several rebel
commanders, told the New York Times.

U.S. President
Barack Obama has previously said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be
a “red line” for his administration, possibly triggering U.S. military action.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also recently refused to rule out
possible Israeli military action in Syria in a BBC interview.

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