BRUSSELS — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged NATO on Tuesday to prepare for the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria on the same day that a senior Israeli military intelligence official said Syrian President Bashar Assad had used such weapons last month in his battle against insurgents.
It was the first time Israel had accused the embattled Syrian leader of using his stockpile of nonconventional weapons.
The assessment, based on visual evidence, could raise pressure on the U.S. and other Western countries to intervene in Syria. Britain and France recently announced that they had evidence that Assad's government had used chemical weapons.
President Barack Obama has warned that the use of chemical weapons by Assad would be a "game changer" and has hinted that it could draw intervention.
But White House spokesman Jay Carney said while the administration is continuing to monitor and investigate whether the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, it has "not come to the conclusion that there has been that use."
"But it is something that is of great concern to us, to our partners, and obviously unacceptable as the president made clear," Carney said.
Despite the deteriorating situation, NATO officials say there is virtually no chance the alliance will intervene in the civil war. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the United Nations. The violence also has forced more than 1 million Syrians to seek safety abroad, and more are leaving by the day, burdening neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
On Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the head of research and analysis in Israeli military intelligence, told a security conference in Tel Aviv that Assad had used chemical weapons multiple times.