Israel's government functions as a terrorist group akin to Al Qaeda or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad claimed Friday in an interview with Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda. Israel is working to "undermine" Syria by supporting "terrorism," such as the militant group also known as ISIS, he added, according to media reports Tuesday.
"There's no contradiction between Israel and any organization like al-Nusra or ISIS or any Al-Qaida-linked organization," said Assad of Israel and rebel groups fighting his regime in Syria. "Anyone, any terrorist who holds a machine gun and started killing and destroying in Syria was supported by Israel, either indirectly through the logistical support on the frontier, or sometimes by direct intervention by Israel against Syria in different areas in Syria."
Assad explained his views on Israel's motives: "Israel is our enemy, because they occupy our lands, and they look at Syria as [an] enemy of course, and for them they think if they undermine the position of Syria and make it weaker as a whole, as [a] society, as [an] army, as [a] state, that will prevent Israel from moving toward the peace, and the price for peace is to give back the Golan Heights to Syria. So, for them, Syria will be busy with another issue now."
Assad's remarks came after the Komsomolskaya Pravda reporter made a link between ISIS and Israel, noting: "Israel never threaten[s] Daesh, ISIS. It's like some kind of agreement about - maybe not friendship - but neutrality. Why, [do] you think, it's like this? And what's the role of Israel in this war?"
Daesh is another name for ISIS. Komsomolskaya Pravda is considered an old Soviet stalwart and Russian President Vladimir Putin's favorite publication. Putin supports Assad and has increasingly been criticized by Western leaders in recent months for bombing civilians and rebels in Syria.
In April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called on world leaders to recognize its rights to the Golan Heights and said Israel would never give it back to Syria. Israel seized the territory during the 1967 Middle East war. He also called for the Islamic State group to be wiped out in Syria.
ISIS has threatened Israel and Jewish people many times in its propaganda videos. The militant group has said it would leave "not one Jew" left in Jerusalem.