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Iranian leader; President al-Assad; President Vladimir Putin. Photo supplied

Israeli official wanted Syrian president assassinated

The new Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) previously pleaded for a violent overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This was rejected by the Israeli government however, because they wanted to focus on Iran instead, Israeli media reported.

Published: January 3, 2019, 8:14 am

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    Citing an unnamed high-ranking Israeli official, the Saudi newspaper Elaph wrote that Major General Aviv Kochavi, then director of the Military Intelligence Service, pleaded for Assad to be removed, or even murdered.

    According to the report, Kochavi recommended “removing” the Assad government because “it would bring disaster to Israel via Iran, Hezbollah, and Russian influence in the region”. But the boss of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, warned the military to show restraint.

    The “ongoing conflict in Syria led Israel to negotiate frequently with the government in Damascus to reach an agreement in Syria,” the report quoted Israeli officials. The security source added that the diplomatic-security cabinet in Jerusalem “held extensive discussions about the situation in Syria and decided that Israel would not allow Iranian military presence there”.

    The report stated that during the eight-year conflict in Syria, Israel had several options to exploit the vulnerability of Assad and his leadership. Instead, Jerusalem decided to focus on preventing Iranian anchors in the country by regularly bombing alleged Iranian and Hezbollah activities in Syria.

    The Israeli source told Elaph that recent Security Cabinet discussions on the situation in Syria have stressed that Israel will not accept any kind of Iranian military presence in Syria and will “do whatever it takes to drive Iran out of Syria”. Political leaders in Israel seem to believe that the “Assad government as we know it will come to an end”.

    Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about Iran’s growing presence at its borders and the smuggling of weapons from Tehran via Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. For Israel, the growing presence of Iran is a “red line”.

    The Israeli Air Force has admitted to having carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria to prevent the advance of Iranian troops and the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

    In a rare interview, outgoing IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot said in October that the expansion of Iran’s influence in the Middle East was a major challenge for both Israel and Saudi Arabia. In this way, the general also indirectly referred to the coordination between Israel and Saudi Arabia against Tehran.

    “The Iranian plan is to control the Middle East with the help of two Shiite crescents,” Eisenkot said, adding, “the first being from Iran via Iraq to Syria and Lebanon and the second through the Gulf of Bahrain to Yemen and the Red Sea is enough, we have to prevent that from happening.”

    Last year, former Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant publicly demanded Assad’s assassination. “The reality is that people are being executed in Syria, intentionally hit by chemical weapons, their bodies burned – something we have not seen for 70 years – a red line is crossed and it’s time, to literally eliminate Assad,” said Galant – a former major general of the IDF and current member of the National Security Council.

    According to Galant, Iran is the biggest threat to Israel, as it wants to open a Shiite land bridge from Tehran via Iraq to Damascus to reach Israel.

    “What’s behind Syria is Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran. Iran is a threat to the security of the whole world. Iran is the problem, not the solution. The world must drive away the Shiite monster and send it back to where it came from. If we get the serpent’s tail, we can also get their head in Tehran.”

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