JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a delegation of U.S. congressmen Monday Israel is closely monitoring developments in Syria, particularly the country's chemical weapons stockpile.
Netanyahu said the chemical weapons are a big concern. Beleaguered President Bashar Assad could use them against his own people or transfer them to Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese-based proxy.
The other major concern is what Syria will look like if and when Assad is deposed. Will a new regime be controlled by Islamists affiliated with al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood?
Netanyahu discussed these issues with a congressional delegation led by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va. The delegation included Reps. Ted Poe, R-Tx., and Hank Johnson, D-Ga., from the House Armed Services Committee.
Netanyhau said the U.S. and Israeli governments are cooperating closely on developments in Syria. Nonetheless, the issue is more critical for Israel because of its shared border with Syria and Lebanon.
In a sign the present regime may be crumbling, Assad's mother, Anisa Makhlouf, widow of the late president Hafez al-Assad, defected and fled Syria for the United Arab Emirates, where her daughter, Bushra, and five grandchildren now live, al-Arabiya reported Monday.
Bushra originally sought asylum in Dubai after her husband, Syria's former deputy of defense, Assef Shawkat, was killed in a targeted attack last July by the opposition. She later moved to the UAE.
Meanwhile, Iran recently warned that it would consider any attack against Syria an attack against itself.