An Israeli minister says Tel Aviv could topple the government of Syrian President of Bashar al-Assad in response to any attack by Iran against the occupying regime, hinting that the Syrian leader himself might be targeted for assassination.
“If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime,” said Yuval Steinitz, the minister of national infrastructure, energy and water resources, in an interview with the Hebrew news portal, Ynet, on Monday.
When asked whether his remarks meant the regime might assassinate President Assad, Steinitz, who is also a member of Israel’s ministerial committee on national security affairs, uttered that “his blood would be forfeit.” The Israeli minister, however, appeared to suggest that his comments did not represent Tel Aviv’s policy, adding, “I’m not talking about any concrete proposal.”
A text story of Steinitz’s interview with Ynet had quoted him as explicitly saying that the Israeli regime would murder Assad, but this was not borne out by a video clip of the interview.
Iran, Syria’s strong ally, has been giving Damascus military advisory assistance in its countrywide counter-terrorism battles since a foreign-sponsored militancy unleashed in the Arab country in 2011.
The Iranian government has repeatedly said that only the Syrian people can decide the future of their country and the political fate of their leader, whereas Israel and the Western powers, particularly the US, has been insisting for years that Assad must be ousted from power.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community. The regime has built dozens of settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.
During the past few years, Israel has frequently attacked Syrian military targets in the Golan Heights in what is considered an attempt to prop up terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy defeats against Syrian government forces.
In April 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially admitted for the first time that the regime’s military had conducted strikes in the Syrian territory.
Damascus says Israel and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups operating inside the Arab country, while the Tel Aviv regime’s military carries out sporadic strikes against Syrian government forces. The Israeli regime has even set up field hospitals to treat wounded militants evacuated from Syria.
Furthermore, the Syrian army has repeatedly seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside Syria.