Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Monday that the chemical threat from Syria has plunged over the past year, Defense News reports.
Speaking on day two of a five-day nationwide drill, Ya'alon said the chemical threat had dropped significantly as a result of international pressure to demilitarize Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.
As evidence of the dwindled threat, and the relative success of a September 2013 agreement that led to the removal and destruction of declared Syrian stockpiles, Ya'alon cited recent use of chlorine bombs by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
"The Syrian regime today uses against its citizens substances that are not exactly chemical weapons…which points to the fact that he [Assad] lost his ability to wage chemical attacks in the manner that he had in the past," he said, according to Defense News.
Ya'alon added that the IDF would continue to train in the event it needed to face chemical weapons on the battlefield.
However, given Assad's depleted arsenals and his preoccupation with surviving Syrian insurgents and radical Sunnis from the Islamic State, "the threat to Israeli citizens has been significantly reduced," he estimated.
In 2013, the United States threatened military intervention against Syria's government after sarin gas attacks that year killed hundreds of residents in Ghouta, a rebel-controlled suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus.
The Damascus government forestalled foreign intervention by agreeing to a U.S.- and Russian-brokered deal under which it joined the OPCW, admitting to having a chemicals weapons program and promising to eliminate it.
A joint mission between the UN and the OPCW was then tasked with eliminating Syria's chemical weapons program, and Assad’s government last year handed over 1,300 tons of chemical arms.
Recently, however, diplomats said that international inspectors had found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition and Chemical Weapons (OPCW), despite Syria’s pledge to do so.