LONDON (Oct. 7)
Israeli jets have been equipped to carry chemical and biological weapons, according to the Sunday Times of London.
The weapons are being manufactured at the Nes Ziona Institute for Biological Research, located southeast of Tel Aviv, the newspaper reported.
Sources quoted in the report said crews of F-16 fighter jets have been trained to load the weapons within minutes of receiving the order.
“There is hardly a single known or unknown form of chemical or biological weapons” that is “not manufactured at the institute,” a biologist who is a former Israeli intelligence official told the paper.
The report alleged that the Nes Ziona facility not only made chemical and biological weapons for use in bombs, “but more unusual arms as well.”
The newspaper further claimed that the facility had created the poison used in the bungled September 1997 assassination attempt on Hamas official Khaled Mashaal in Jordan.
In the past, Israel has described reports that the institute makes chemical and biological weapons as “inaccurate.”
Last week, the mayor of Nes Ziona won a court order to freeze plans to expand the research institute.
Accidents at the plant have killed at least six workers, and alerts have almost led to the evacuation of the town. Details about the incidents have been suppressed by Israel’s military censor.
Meanwhile, the Dutch government has ordered a public inquiry into the Oct. 4, 1992, crash of an El Al cargo plane that was flying from New York to Tel Aviv.
The four-person Israeli crew and 39 Dutch citizens were killed when the plane crashed into an apartment complex in the Dutch capital.
The inquiry was announced after a Dutch newspaper reported last week that the plane had been carrying 42 gallons of the chemical DMMT — dimethyl methylphosphonate — which was destined for the Nes Ziona facility.
When combined with other chemicals, DMMT can be used to manufacture Sarin nerve gas.
The burning chemicals may have been responsible for health complaints registered by residents of the apartment complex in the wake of the crash.
Israeli officials acknowledged that DMMT was aboard the flight, but they added that the materials were non-toxic and that all the appropriate air transportation officials had been notified at the time about the nature of the shipment.
The officials also said the chemical was to be sent to Nes Ziona and that another shipment had been sent there after the crash. The chemical was used for “testing filters,” they added.
Dutch officials have expressed doubts about the Israeli explanations.
Among the skeptics is Dr. Jan Medema, who heads a team of chemical weapons inspectors and directs the toxic substances division at the Dutch Defense Research Institute in The Hague.
Medema said he believed the quantity of DMMT aboard the airliner was too large for routine experiments.
“We have been trying to think what possible research purposes would need such large quantities of this compound,” he said, adding that it was likely the chemical was used to manufacture Sarin.
Either the Israelis “had some special plan for an experiment,” said Medema, “or they needed a quantity of Sarin for some special purpose. This raises many questions.”