Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Boy held hostage in bunker after being snatched from school bus

A school bus driver was fatally shot in Midland County, Ala., by a man who boarded the bus with children on board and then abducted a six-year-old student. He is holding the child hostage in an underground bunker. WSFA's Samuel King reports.

Updated at 8:42 p.m. ET: A man described as a survivalist stormed a school bus, killed the driver, took a boy captive and was still holding him Wednesday in an underground bunker in southeastern Alabama.
At a press conference Wednesday evening, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said authorities "have no reason to believe the child has been harmed." Hostage negotiators have been communicating with the suspect since Tuesday night, after the man boarded the school bus.
Authorities said they had gotten medication to the boy, who is 5 or 6, early in the day. There were no clues as to when the hostage drama might end.
A source close to the investigation identified the gunman to NBC News as Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, and said he was a loner and survivalist who “does not trust the government” and holds “anti-American views.”
People in the remote town of Midland City said that they had seen him tirelessly digging up his own yard, even his driveway, sometimes in the middle of the night -- apparently building what one man in the neighborhood described as a bomb shelter fortified by sand.
Dykes burst onto the yellow school bus around 3:40 p.m. on Tuesday, authorities said. When the driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, tried to stop Dykes from taking children off the bus, he was fatally shot. The source close to the investigation told NBC News that four spent bullets were found at the scene.

The county school system said that 21 students had made it off the bus safely, and praised Poland as a fallen hero. But the gunman made off with the one child, possibly because the boy fainted during the siege, NBC station WSFA reported.
Authorities offered no hints to the gunman’s motive.
Dykes had been due in court Wednesday morning to face a misdemeanor charge of menacing. A neighbor, James E. Davis Jr., claimed that Dykes had pointed a pistol at his truck on Dec. 10 and fired the weapon.

Dale County Board of Education
The Dothan Eagle newspaper quoted another neighbor, Michael Creel, describing the bunker as a “homemade bomb shelter,” roughly 4 feet wide, 6 feet long and 8 feet deep and covered by several feet of sand.
Neighbors described Dykes as a man who was volatile and troubled.
Read more: Hostage suspect was loner, missed court appearance
Davis told the newspaper that Dykes would be “outside in his yard digging dirt at 2:30 in the morning.” Another neighbor, Danny Dean, told NBC News that he had dug up his own driveway.
Rhonda Wilbur told WSFA that Dykes was a longtime source of concern in the neighborhood because “he has been like a time bomb waiting for him to go off.” Wilbur told reporters that Dykes had beaten her dog to death with a lead pipe.
Poland, the bus driver, had held the job since 2009. Linda Williams, a county tax clerk whose cousin was married to Poland, described him to NBC News as “a good Christian man” who was active in church.
A minister, Michael Senn, told WSFA that the other children ran for safety and hid behind Destiny Church.
“All the kids are at a safe place,” he said, though he added that they all appeared to be in shock.
Creel told the newspaper that the man was “the type that thinks the government’s out to get them.”
In addition to the county sheriff’s department, the FBI and a SWAT team were on the scene. A woman answering the phone at the Midland Police Department said the FBI had completely taken over and that local police were no longer involved. Authorities ordered people living nearby to leave during the standoff.
The office of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said the governor was closely watching the situation.
“Prayers for law enforcement, this child’s family and the community are lifted up,” the governor’s press secretary, Jennifer Ardis, said on Twitter.
Rep. Martha Roby, who represents the area, also asked for prayers and added on Twitter: “Let’s be patient as law enforcement officers do their best to get to the bottom of this and bring the person responsible to justice.”
Schools in Dale County and the nearby city of Ozark were closed for the rest of the week. Dale County schools said counselors would be available to help students, including those who were on the bus.
The Dothan Eagle via AP
A man boarded this stopped school bus in the town of Midland City on Tuesday afternoon and shot the driver when he refused to let a child off the bus. The bus driver died.

Kerry Farewell Speech

Clipped from: Senate Session
Jan 30, 2013
Kerry Farewell Speech
Alan Cloutier
Clip Created Jan 30, 2013

 Welcome to Walmart!
A manager at Wal-Mart had the task of hiring someone to fill a job opening. After sorting through a stack of resumes he found four people who were equally qualified. He decided to call the four in and ask them only one question. Their answer would determine which of them would get the job.

The day came and as the four sat around the conference room table, the interviewer asked, 'What is the fastest thing you know of?'

The first man replied, 'A THOUGHT.' It just pops into your head. There's no warning.

'That's very good!' replied the interviewer. 'And, now you sir?', he asked the second man.

'Hmmm...let me see 'A blink! It comes and goes and you don't know that it ever happened. A BLINK is the fastest thing I know of.'

'Excellent!' said the interviewer. 'The blink of an eye, that's a very popular cliché for speed.' He then turned to the third man, who was contemplating his reply.

'Well, out at my dad's ranch, you step out of the house and on the wall there's a light switch. When you flip that switch, way out across the pasture the light on the barn comes on in less than an instant. 'Yep, TURNING ON A LIGHT is the fastest thing I can think of'.

The interviewer was very impressed with the third answer and thought he had found his man. 'It's hard to beat the speed of light,' he said.

Turning to BUBBA, the fourth and final man, the interviewer posed the same question.

Old Bubba replied, 'After hearing the previous three answers, it's obvious to me that the fastest thing known is DIARRHEA.'

'WHAT!?' said the interviewer, stunned by the response.

'Oh sure', said BUBBA. 'You see, the other day I wasn't feeling so good, and I ran for the bathroom, but before I could THINK, BLINK, or TURN ON THE LIGHT, I had already s**t my pants.'

BUBBA is now the new greeter at a Wal-Mart near you!     


'Walking angel': Girl who performed at Obama's inauguration shot dead in Chicago

'Happiest day of her life and then she's gone'
Hadiya Pendleton, 15, a student at King College Prep, was killed Tuesday at a Chicago park.

By Tracy Connor, Staff Writer, NBC News

A 15-year-old girl who performed at President Obama's inauguration last week was shot dead Tuesday while hanging out with friends after school in bullet-scarred Chicago.

Hadiya Pendleton -- described by family as a “walking angel” -- was standing under a canopy in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park when a gunman ran down an alley, opened fire and fled in a white car, police said.

Pendleton was shot in the back but managed to run about a block before she collapsed, officer Laura Kubiak said. She died at the hospital.

A 16-year-old boy was wounded in the 2:20 p.m. incident. Police said Pendleton, who had no criminal record, was probably not the intended target.

“Never in a million years did I think I would get a call that my own baby had been gunned down,” Pendleton’s mother, Cleo Cowley, said through tears from her Chicago home.

She had a 10-year-old brother, Junior, who worshipped her.

“He’s crushed because she loved, loved, loved her brother,” Cowley said. “From the moment I had him, she wanted a little sibling and at the age of 5 she started mothering him.”

“She had a heart that was huge,” her mother said, her voice cracking. “She had her own brain. She didn’t roll with the crowd. If there was someone being ostracized, she was their friend, because she said everyone needs a friend.”

She said she was at work Tuesday afternoon when she got an unexpected call from one of her daughter’s friends.

“She was screaming on the phone that Hadiya’s been shot, she’s been shot, and I just didn’t understand,” said Cowley.

Courtesy the Pendleton family
Photos of Hadiya Pendleton from her trip to Washington.

She and other relatives described the teen as a honor student, an insatiable reader who still found time to play volleyball and a twirl a baton in the school marching band.

“As usual, the bad guy aims, but he never hits the other bad guy . . . He hits the one that hurts the most to lose,” the victim’s godfather, Damon Stewart, 36, who is a police officer, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I changed her diapers, I played with her growing up. My heart is broken.”

A sophomore at selective King College Prep High School, Pendleton had traveled to Washington to perform with the band at inaugural events.

“It was the highlight of her young 15-year-old life,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday at a Senate hearing on gun violence.

“Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she’s gone.”

For Obama, the shooting hits home at a time when he is pushing Congress to enact stricter gun laws that he says would curb not only mass shootings but also everyday gun violence in cities such as his home town of Chicago. So far this year, 42 have been killed, making the month the most deadly January in the city in more than 10 years.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the “thoughts and prayers” of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were with Pendleton’s family. He also reiterated the Obama administration’s position that those in Washington “have an obligation to try” to forge bipartisan agreement on gun control if it means that even one life can be saved.

“Well, it’s a terrible tragedy — anytime a young person is struck down with so much of their life ahead of them, and we see it far too often.... The president has more than once when he talks about gun violence in America referred not just to the horror of Newtown or Aurora or Virginia Tech or Oak Creek but to shootings on the corner in Chicago or other parts of the country,” Carney said. “And this is just another example of the problem that we need to deal with.”

Cousin Shatira Wilks said the inauguration trip was the talk of a family gathering around New Year’s, but the young majorette was even more excited about something else: plans to travel to Europe this spring with the band.

“She was an honor student all her life,” Wilks said. “Honestly, she was a walking angel. She never once gave her mom any problems ever.”

Wilks said the teen doted on her 10-year-old brother, Junior, who is devastated.

“At Christmas this year, she was designated the elf and she handed out all the gifts,” she recalled.

“She loved rock music. She was always listening and playing to music,” Wilks said,. “What you would usually catching her doing is texting on her phone, like all the teenagers.”

Pendleton last tweeted just before 1 a.m. on Tuesday. “I’m tired,” she wrote.

Many of her classmates changed their Twitter handles to honor her and decried the violence that had claimed an innocent life.

“You are more than loved and missed,” one wrote. “Your laugh smile and silly happy personality has made my day more times than I can remember. Nobody deserves this, especially not you.”

Friends of the young majorette described her as a bubbly, well-liked student.

“She was always smiling and laughing,” said Tyler Genovesi, 14. “She was just a really nice person. … There’s a lot of people crying in school today. It’s very sad. The band is playing for her right now.”

Since Saturday, Chicago has recorded 11 homicides--nine by gunshot. And the toll on parents across the city is mounting. NBC's John Yang reports.

Pendleton's murder was one of three shooting deaths in the city on Tuesday. More than 40 people have been shot dead in Chicago since the beginning of the year. There were 506 homicides in the city last year, a 16 percent increase even as other large cities, like New York, saw murders drop.

“We are awash in guns,” Durbin said, noting that six times as many guns as confiscated in Chicago as in New York each year. We have guns everywhere and some believe the solution to this is more guns. I disagree.”

Cowley broke down sobbing when she was told that her daughter’s death had been mentioned in the Senate.

“Something does need to change,” she said. “Where are the guns coming from? I don’t own a gun. My daughter was not violent. I never would have thought she would die like this.”


Tale of two cities: Homicides leap in Chicago, plummet in New York
Background checks take center stage at fractious Senate hearing

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., talks about the surge in gun violence in Chicago, highlighting the tragic story of Hadiya Pendleton, a city honor student who was shot and killed after performing at President Obama's inauguration.

The GDP report for the fourth quarter of 2012 is, on its face, disappointing. The economy shrunk, at an 0.1 percent annual rate, the first such contraction since the recession’s nadir in 2009. But commentators are surprisingly upbeat about it. Spending and investment are still looking good, but sharp contractions in business inventory and federal defense spending sunk the overall number. Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics called it “The best-looking contraction in U.S. GDP you’ll ever see.”
Judge for yourself. Here’s what the report looks like, if you break it down by its components. Click to open a bigger version:

Deep spending cuts are likely, lawmakers say, with no deal on sequester in sight


Alex Wong/Getty Images - “I think [the cuts are] more likely to happen. And I’m ashamed of the Congress, I’m ashamed of the president, and I’m ashamed of being in this body, quite frankly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force Reservist who has been working for months to develop a bipartisan plan to protect the Pentagon.

By ,

Less than a month after averting one fiscal crisis, Washington began bracing Tuesday for another, as lawmakers in both parties predicted that deep, across-the-board spending cuts would probably hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies on March 1.
An array of proposals are in the works to delay or replace the cuts. But party leaders say they see no clear path to compromise, particularly given a growing sentiment among Republicans to pocket the cuts and move on to larger battles over health and retirement spending.
Adding to the sense of inevitability is the belief that the cuts, known as the sequester, would improve the government’s bottom line without devastating the broader economy. Though the cuts would hamper economic growth, especially in the Washington region, the forecast is far less dire than with other recent fiscal deadlines, and financial markets are not pressing Washington to act.
Cuts to the military and the defense industry remain politically problematic. But Tuesday, even some of the Pentagon’s most fervent champions seemed resigned to the likelihood that the cuts would be permitted to kick in, at least temporarily.
“I think it’s more likely to happen. And I’m ashamed of the Congress, I’m ashamed of the president, and I’m ashamed of being in this body, quite frankly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force Reservist who has been working for months to develop a bipartisan plan to protect the Pentagon.
“How do you go to somebody in the military who’s been deployed four or five times . . . and say, ‘For your good work over the last decade, we’re going to ruin the military; we’re going to make it harder for you to have the equipment you need to fight, and we’re going to reduce benefits to your family?’ ” he said.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) was only slightly more optimistic, saying there is a “real” threat that the sequester will strike in March. The odds, he said, are “probably even.”
As the deadline approaches, legions of corporate executives, nonprofit officials, mayors and governors are working the phones and trekking to Capitol Hill in hopes of securing a last-minute deal. Cuts to government contracts have already triggered layoffs, particularly in the defense industry. And agency officials are warning of mass furloughs of government workers that could delay medical research, leave national parks understaffed for the peak vacation season and otherwise disrupt federal operations.
“A lot of people on the Hill see the oncoming train,” said Marion Blakey, president and chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association, who led a delegation of chief executives to the Capitol on Tuesday. “We’re going to keep fighting this.”

Origins of the sequester
The sequester is a product of the 2011 fight over the national debt, when the new GOP House majority insisted on spending cuts equal in size to the increase in the federal debt limit. The result: spending caps that would force President Obama to slice $1 trillion from agency budgets over the next decade, along with $1.2 trillion in additional cuts that would hit automatically on Jan. 2, 2013, unless Congress agreed on a plan to replace them.
The sequester was designed to be abhorrent to both parties. With the exception of a few programs spared by Congress — including Medicaid, Medicare benefits and food stamps — every government account would be sliced by roughly the same amount. Many Republicans were queasy about a projected 9.4 percent reduction in military programs. And many Democrats were alarmed by the prospect of a 8.2 percent cut to Head Start, air-traffic-control operations and community development block grants.
Despite the threat, lawmakers riven by larger ideological differences over taxes and spending have not agreed on an alternative plan to generate $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade. Late last month, in the throes of negotiations over the “fiscal cliff,” the White House and congressional leaders informed rank-and-file lawmakers that the sequester would kick in on Jan. 2.
That sparked a furious lobbying campaign by outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who helped secure a deal to delay the sequester for two months. The White House and congressional leaders agreed to cover half of the $24 billion cost by reducing spending caps even further over the next two years; the other half would come from a tax gimmick that Democrats counted as new revenue.
The agreement eased the impact of the sequester. Instead of lopping nearly $110 billion from agency budgets this year, the cuts will amount to about $85 billion, according to a recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Most Pentagon accounts would drop by 7.3 percent, the analysis said, while most domestic agencies would lose 5.1 percent.

Digging in on both sides
But the agreement did little to pave a path for further compromise. Indeed, Obama is now insisting that any fresh debt-reduction measure be evenly balanced between spending cuts and new tax revenue.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Democrats will push to replace the sequester “in short increments” of a few months at a time. But any proposal, he said, “should be a balance of spending cuts and revenue.”

Republicans have ruled out further revenue, saying they will give Obama no more than the roughly $600 billion in new taxes on wealthy Americans that he won in the fiscal cliff talks. Instead, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Republicans will let the sequester kick in, making it easier for them to persuade conservatives to keep the government open when the current funding bill expires March 27.
The sequester “is the only cuts we’ve got right now,” said Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.
That would clear the legislative decks for a broad ideological fight centered on a budget framework for 2014. Obama is due to deliver his budget request for the coming fiscal year in early March, with Ryan and Senate Democrats expected to follow with their blueprints in the weeks thereafter.
But there is deep anxiety in both parties about how to proceed. In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is resisting calls from Democratic leaders to raise additional revenue through tax reform. “That has to be resolved,” Baucus said.
And in the House, some veteran GOP lawmakers worry that Ryan’s pledge to wipe out deficits over the next decade will produce a budget so austere it cannot win approval, even among House Republicans — sparking a new internal crisis just as Congress faces its next deadline for raising the federal debt ceiling sometime this summer.

Have you ever taken someone else’s prescription drug? As many as 28% of women say they have—and that puts them at risk for serious health problems. Get tips on how to take medication safely.

Possible suspect for NYC mom missing in Turkey

A view of the street with the hostel, in yellow at the end-left, where Sarai Sierra, a New York City woman, 33, was staying in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.
A view of the street with the hostel, in yellow at the end-left, where Sarai Sierra, a New York City woman, 33, was staying in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. / AP Photo

January 30, 2013, 11:08 AM
ANKARA, Turkey Turkish police on Wednesday were trying to trace a contact who apparently corresponded with a New York City woman through social networking sites before she went missing, an official said.

Undated photo of Sarai Sierra
/ Facebook
Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two from Staten Island, N.Y., has been missing since Jan. 21 when she was supposed to return home from a solo vacation in Istanbul. Police there have set up a special unit to find her.

A senior police official told The Associated Press that Sierra had exchanged messages with a person before she disappeared and police were now trying to trace the man or woman he described as a possible suspect in her disappearance.

The official said Sierra "presumably met" the person after she arrived in Istanbul. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

The official, however, denied several Turkish media reports - that police were searching for an unknown man caught following Sierra on security camera footage; that Sierra had spent some US$12,000 during her stay in Istanbul; and that a narcotics team had searched her hostel room on suspicion that she might be a drug courier. "It's all made-up," he said.

Sierra arrived in Istanbul on Jan. 7 and had been in regular contact with friends and family back in the United States. Before she went missing, Sierra told family members that she planned to take some photographs at Galata Bridge, a well-known tourist destination about 2 kilometers away from her hostel. She was supposed to begin traveling home on Jan. 21, but never checked into her flight back to New York.

Police have said Sierra made an excursion to Amsterdam, Netherlands, from Istanbul on Jan. 15 and travelled on to Munich, Germany, on Jan. 16 before returning to Istanbul on Jan. 19, WCBS in New York reports. Police were trying to determine the reason for her visit to the European cities.
Her husband, Steven, and brother, David Jimenez, travelled to Istanbul to help in the search and were interviewed by the Istanbul police Tuesday. The two left the police headquarters after some seven hours and were seen carrying a suitcase, which the state-run Anadolu Agency said belonged to Sierra.

Sierra's belongings, including her passport, were found in her hostel room.

Jimenez did not immediately respond to questions sent by email or to an interview request.

Police have released CCTV camera footage showing Sierra alone, eating in the food court of a shopping mall and walking along a main shopping street near her hostel. She is dressed in jeans, a brown leather jacket and a winter hat.

Sierra had planned to go on the trip with a friend but ended up going by herself when the friend couldn't make it. She was looking forward to exploring her hobby of photography, on her first trip outside of the United States, her family said.
Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm is assisting in the case.

Senate Committee Investigates Solutions for Gun Violence

Senate Judiciary Hearing on Gun Violence

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly met with President Obama today following the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. (Official White House Photo/Pete Souza)

Israel hits weapons convoy on Syria-Lebanon border

Israeli forces conducted an airstrike on a convoy  the Syrian-Lebanese border Wednesday. NBC's Richard Engel joins Brian Williams with his analysis.

BEIRUT — Israel's air force launched a rare airstrike on a military site inside Syria, the Syrian government and U.S. and regional security officials said Wednesday, adding a potentially flammable new element to regional tensions already heightened by Syria's civil war.
Regional security officials said the jets targeted a site near the Lebanese border, and a Syrian army statement said it destroyed a military research center northwest of the capital Damascus. They appeared to be discussing the same incident.
The strike, which occurred overnight Tuesday, appeared to be the latest salvo in Israel's long-running effort to disrupt the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah's quest to build an arsenal capable of defending against Israel's air force and spreading destruction inside the Jewish state from just over its northern border.
The regional security officials said Israel had been planning in recent days to hit a Syrian shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah, which is neighboring Lebanon's most powerful military force and committed to Israel's destruction. They said the shipment included sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles whose acquisition by Hezbollah would be "game-changing" by allowing it to blunt Israel's air power.
The strike may have halted that transfer.
The Israeli military and a Hezbollah spokesman both declined to comment, and Syria denied the existence of any such shipment.
U.S. officials confirmed the strike, saying it hit a convoy of trucks, but gave no further information.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The strike follows decades of enmity between Israel and allies Syria and Hezbollah, which consider the Jewish state their mortal enemy. The situation has been further complicated by the civil war raging in Syria between the forces of President Bashar Assad and hundreds of rebel brigades seeking his ouster.
The war has sapped Assad's power and threatens to deprive Hezbollah of a key supporter, in addition to its land corridor to Iran. The two countries provide Hezbollah with the bulk of its funding and arms.
Many in Israel worry that has Assad's regime loses power, it could strike back by transferring chemical or advanced weapons to Hezbollah.
Israel and Hezbollah fought an inconclusive 34-day war in 2006 that left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.
While the border has been largely quiet since, the struggle has taken other forms. Hezbollah has accused Israel of assassinating a top commander, and Israel has blamed Hezbollah for attacks on Jewish sites abroad. In October, Hezbollah launched an Iranian-made reconnaissance drone over Israel, using the incident to brag about its expanding capabilities.
Israeli officials believe that despite their best efforts, Hezbollah's arsenal has markedly improved since 2006, now boasting tens of thousands of rockets and missiles and the ability to strike almost anywhere inside Israel.
Israel suspects that Damascus obtained a battery of SA-17s from Russia after an alleged Israeli airstrike in 2007 that destroyed an unfinished Syrian nuclear reactor.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of the dangers of Syria's "deadly weapons" and warned that the country is "increasingly coming apart."
The same day, Israel moved a battery of its new "Iron Dome" rocket defense system to the northern city of Haifa, which was battered by Hezbollah rocket fire in the 2006 war. The Israeli army called that move "routine."
Syria, however, cast the strike in a different light, portraying as linked to the country's civil war, which  blames on terrorists carrying out an international conspiracy to destroy the country.
A military statement read aloud on state TV Wednesday said low-flying Israeli jets crossed into Syria over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and bombed a military research center in the area of Jamraya, northwest of the capital, Damascus.
The strike destroyed the center and damaged a nearby building, killing two workers and wounding five others, it said.
The military denied the existence of any convoy bound for Lebanon, saying the center was responsible for "raising the level of resistance and self-defense" of Syria's military.
"This proves that Israel is the instigator, beneficiary and sometimes executor of the terrorist acts targeting Syria and its people," the statement said.
Despite its icy relations with Assad, Israel has remained on the sidelines of efforts to topple him, while keeping up defenses against possible attacks from the regime.
Israeli defense officials have carefully monitored Syria's chemical weapons, fearing Assad could deploy them or lose control of them to extremist fighters among the rebels.
President Barack Obama has called the use of chemical weapons a "red line" whose crossing could prompt direct U.S. intervention, though U.S. officials have said Syria's stockpiles still appear to be under government control.
The strike was Israel's first inside Syria since September 2007, when its warplanes destroyed a site in Syria that the U.N. nuclear watchdog deemed likely to be a nuclear reactor. Syria denied the claim, saying the building was a non-nuclear military site.
Syria allowed international inspectors to visit the bombed site in 2008 but it has refused to allow nuclear inspectors new access. This has heightened suspicions that Syria has something to hide, along with its decision to level the destroyed structure and build on its site.
In 2006, Israeli warplanes flew over Assad's palace in a show of force after Syrian-backed militants captured an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip.
And in 2003, Israeli warplanes attacked a suspected militant training camp just north of the Syrian capital, in response to an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in the city of Haifa that killed 21 Israelis.
Syria vowed to retaliate for both attacks, but never did.
In May 2011, only two months after the uprising against Assad started, hundreds of Palestinians overran the tightly controlled Syria-Israeli frontier in a move widely thought to have been facilitated by the Assad regime to divert the world's gaze from his growing troubles at home.