Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (AP)

Notwithstanding the announcement of a ceasefire in Syria, government forces have continued using chemical weapons against civilians, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Tuesday that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons against civilians despite the ceasefire – brokered by Russia and the U.S. – aimed at bringing an end to the civil war in that country that began in 2011 and, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research, has claimed close to 500,000 lives.

“The Syrians used military grade chemical weapons and lately have been using materials, chlorine, against civilians, including in these very days, after the supposed ceasefire, dropping barrels of chlorine on civilians,” Ya’alon said at an event organized by the New Tech military and aviation group in Airport City, near Tel Aviv.

Ya’alon, in a meeting with his Italian counterpart, Roberta Pinotti, in Tel Aviv on Monday, said Israel was “very concerned” about the growing Iranian presence and influence in Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that any peaceful resolution in Syria must guarantee Israel’s security needs, ensuring that Iran does not establish a terror front against Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights.