The highest military officer of Israel said his country is preparing for the entry of Syrian refugees in the event that the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad collapses.
According to the Associated Press, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz of the Israeli Defense Forces told a parliamentary committee that if Assad is toppled, members of his Alawite minority would flee Syria and likely seek to cross into the Golan Heights of Israel, which is located very close to Damascus.
We are getting ready to take in Alawite refugees in the Golan Heights, he told the committee.
Gantz suggested that he expected Assad to be removed from power.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria during the 1967 war, and formally annexed it in 1981.
Alawites, the minority ethnic group that rules Syria, are an offshoot of Shia Muslims. While other Muslims in Syria and Lebanon accept Alawites as Islamic, other Muslims throughout the world regard them as heretics.
Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, also reported that Gantz believes Assad might seek to ignite a military confrontation against Israel in order to unite all the opposition forces in Syria against a common enemy (i.e. the Jewish State).
Assad cannot continue holding on to power and his downfall is expected to cause a crack in the radical axis, Gantz said.
Assad and the Syrian regime may have a hard time acting against us in the short-term, but we also need to take into account that Syria has advanced weapons systems. They have advanced Russian arms such as Yakhont missiles.
Gantz further warned that Golan Heights may also become a focal point for Assad’s aggressions.
Assad is not the same type as [former Libyan leader Moammar] Gaddafi, who fights until the last bullet down in the sewer. The day that the Syrian regime will fall, it will issue a blow to the Alawites, and we are preparing to absorb those refugees.
In addition, the IDF chief warned of a rising danger to Israel from Lebanon.
“The threat from Lebanon toward Israel has grown on every parameter in the last few years,” Gantz said. “The threats have grown to five times what they were before. It is likely that strategic warfare methods will pass from Syria to Hezbollah.”