IAF Fighter Pilots Buzz Syrian President?s Palace

Israel Air Force pilots buzzed Syrian President Bashir Assad’s palace on Wednesday morning in a clear message warning him not to intervene in the conflict in Gaza.

Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 23:11

Four IAF F-16 fighter jets performed a fly-by over the palace in the northern city of Latakia, it was announced by IDF officials Wednesday evening. Assad was in the palace during the flight.

The low-altitude flying pattern was to convey the message that the Israeli government is not pleased with Syria’s willingness to host exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

“The overflight by two Israeli planes near the Syrian shores is an aggressive act and a provocation,” said state-run Syrian television. The statement read on the television station added that “national air defenses opened fire in the direction of the planes, and they dispersed.”

No mention was made of the four IAF fighter jets that buzzed Assad’s summer palace.

The order to kidnap IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit was issued by Mashaal, who is based in Damascus. The 19-year-old soldier is being held hostage in the Gaza Strip by a coalition of three Hamas-linked terrorist groups taking direction from the exiled Hamas leader.

In a bid to distance itself from Mashaal’s activities, the Syrian Information Ministry official who read the statement added, “If the goal of this [flight] is to blame the political leadership of Hamas for the abduction of the Israeli soldier, then Israel is making a big mistake that goes beyond logic.”

Mashaal has been marked for death by the Israeli government for his role in ordering Shalit’s kidnapping, according to Justice Minister Haim Ramon. “He is definitely in our sights,” Ramon said in an interview on Army Radio. Ramon equated Mashaal with Osama bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist leader in the world.

Wednesday’s IAF fly-by, according to IDF officials, was aimed at pressuring Syria to evict Mashaal from his Damascus base.