Israeli president Shimon Peres has said that Syrian Bashar al-Assad must step down, marking the first time that a senior Israeli official has called for the end of the Baathist regime in Damascus.

Peres, who has now real power in Israeli government but nonetheless is widely regarded as the country’s number one political sage, made his comments during an unprecedented news chat with about 30 Arab media members.

Citing that Assad’s security forces have murdered up to 2,000 civilians and jailed untold thousands since the uprising started four months ago, Peres declared: "The sooner he [Assad] will leave, the better it will be for his people.

Peres’ comments were all the more unusual since he rarely makes public political pronouncements anymore.

Peres also expressed support for the Syrian protesters.
"It is easy to go out and demonstrate, but when they shoot at you? It is amazing," he said. "Their courage and firm stance are honorable."
By removing Assad, Peres suggested, peace between Syria and
Israel might be established eventually.

"Those who seek peace will prevail," he said.

A few days before, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke for the first time with an Arab news service, Al-Arabiya TV, since he ascended to power in 2009.