The Obama administration said Thursday that the Syrian government is likely to have used chemical weapons on a small scale against its own people, but it stopped short of threatening military action against President Bashar al-Assad.

In a letter to key lawmakers, the White House said U.S. intelligence agencies “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.”

Despite the caveats, the disclosure puts President Obama under new pressure to respond because it is the first time that the United States has joined other countries in suggesting that the Assad government is likely to have deployed chemical weapons over the course of Syria’s two-year-old conflict.

BEIRUT — Israeli warplanes bombed the outskirts of Damascus early Sunday for the second time in recent days, according to Syrian state media and reports from activists, signaling a sharp escalation in tensions between the neighboring countries that had already been exacerbated by the conflict raging in Syria.

Though there was no official confirmation that Israel had carried out the attack, the Israeli military later announced that it had deployed two of its Iron Dome rocket defense batteries near its northern border in response to what it called “ongoing situational assessments.”

Videos posted on the Internet by activists showed a huge fireball erupting on Mount Qassioun, a landmark hill overlooking the capital on which the Syrian government has deployed much of the firepower it is using against rebel-controlled areas surrounding the city.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency said that a scientific research facility had been struck by an Israeli missile, and a banner displayed on state television said the attack was intended to relieve pressure on rebel forces in the embattled eastern suburbs. The banner was accompanied by martial music and footage of Syrian soldiers marching, descending from helicopters and firing rockets, indicating that Syria may not shrug off the assault, as it has with some Israeli strikes in the past.

By Anne Gearan and Craig Whitlock,April 25, 2013 Washington Post

The Prophetic scoop by Hal Lindsey

Hal Lindsey Report
 May 31st, 2013

This week on 'The Hal Lindsey Report'
In 55 years of prophetic ministry, I have never uttered the words: "Israel has bombed Damascus" - until May of 2013. Three weeks ago, for the first time, Israel struck targets inside the city of Damascus. The airstrikes were part of an effort to keep missiles and chemical weapons out of the hands of two groups: Hezbollah, who is fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and al-Qaeda, who is leading the fight against him.

Why is this important? Because the prophet Isaiah predicted that in the last days Damascus would be laid waste and never inhabited again. He specified three important points in Isaiah 17. First, the entire city will become a "fallen heap of ruins", totally destroyed. Second, it will never be re-inhabited or rebuilt. Third, this destruction will happen suddenly. In fact, during the darkness of one night.

When Isaiah wrote these words, the sword was probably the most advanced weapon that men wielded. The weaponry capable of laying waste to a massive city in the course of a few hours was uninvented - even unimagined.

In those times, when invaders conquered a city and destroyed it, they usually just built a new one on the ruins. Yet this ancient prophet described an event and a result that could only be accomplished by the use of nuclear weapons - even to the fact that nuclear contamination would prevent the use of that area ever again.

As I've noted before, Damascus is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world that has never been totally destroyed. So Isaiah's prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. In fact, it is the only end-times prophecy, outside the ones concerning the seven-year Tribulation and its end with Christ's return to set up the millennial kingdom, that remains unfulfilled.

So why bring this up now? This month Israel's air force struck targets inside the city of Damascus. The fact that Israel was willing to take such a risk indicates the gravity of the threat. Syria has the third largest chemical weapons stockpile in the world and 100,000 missiles which means that when Assad falls, either Hezbollah, his ally, or al Qaeda, his enemy, will gain possession of those weapons of mass destruction. And both are determined to destroy Israel.

The Israelis are determined that none of the missiles or chemical weapons Syria possesses will end up in the control of Hezbollah or al-Qaeda.

As daunting a challenge as this appears, it might be the lesser of Israel's worries at the moment. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad knows that he's headed for the door, one way or another. Even most of the Arab world is standing against him. It has probably occurred to him that the only way he can hang on is if he can reverse that and rally the other Arab nations to his side.

How can he make that happen? Simple: provoke Israel into entering the war currently being waged in Syria between his government and the opposition rebels. Though the Muslim sects, Sunni, Shia and Alawite, hate each other, they hate Israel even more. If Israel entered the war, then Assad reckons that most of the Arab and Muslim nations will rally to his side and he can hang on to power.

Saddam Hussein tried that in the 1991 Gulf War by hurling 39 SCUDS at Israel, but Israel didn't bite. This time, though, Assad's weapons are infinitely more dangerous and diabolical. That's why one of Israel's generals recently warned that if Syria dares launch any of its biological or chemical weapons at Israel, they would respond with whatever it takes, even "to the edge of the spectrum," to defend themselves.

I think "...the edge of the spectrum..." implies Israel's willingness to use any means, even tactical nuclear weapons, to stop an all-out WMD assault by Syria. Tel Aviv lies only 133 miles from Damascus. Syrian missiles will reach it in mere minutes. That's how long Israel's leaders will have to respond. And they already know that to stop Syria, their response will have to be massive and final.

And we know how seriously Israel takes this threat. Seriously enough to launch airstrikes inside Damascus and risk the wrath of the world.

The bottom line is that we are at a critical juncture in this Middle East crisis, both politically and prophetically. Things could explode at any moment and we find ourselves hurtling forward in the end-times scenario.  


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