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      Expert: A Threatened Assad May Attack Israel

      Middle East expert Professor Eyal Zisser: If Assad feels threatened by the anti-regime protesters, he may attack Israel.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 12/13/2011, 3:12 AM

      Syrian President Bashar Assad
      Syrian President Bashar Assad
      Flash 90

      Middle East expert Professor Eyal Zisser warned on Monday against a possible Syrian attack on Israel, if President Bashar Assad feels threatened by the anti-regime protesters.

      In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Zisser said that in the short term there is no reason for particular concern, because a situation which is bad for Assad is good for Israel as this means that the Syrian president is preoccupied with his internal affairs and not with attacking Israel.

      Zisser added that the concern is in the long run, because it is quite possible that a desperate Assad may decide to rally his people around a common enemy, namely Israel.

      Referring to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s comments on Sunday that the end of Assad’s rule is approaching and that it would be a “blessing for the Middle East,” Prof. Zisser said that these remarks do not have any special meaning for the Syrians as they do not pay attention to remarks made by an Israeli defense minister.

      He also spoke of the interview Assad gave last week to ABC News, in which he told veteran journalist Barbara Walters that “no government in the world [would] kill its people unless it’s led by a crazy person.” Zisser explained that the interview is a direct continuation of an attempt by Assad’s men to show him as an enlightened person who is different from his father. This attempt, he said, has been ongoing since Assad took over power from his father.

      The day after the era of Assad, he said, will see a stern and bloody fight for power as the Syrians do not have organized opposition to take over the reins. He predicted that the ensuing chaos may lead the West to try to intervene, despite past experience having shown that Western intervention usually leads to extremists ultimately taking power.

      Meanwhile on Monday, Syrians went out to vote in municipal elections despite the battles that raged in the streets between government troops and army defectors, and a feeling by some that in any case, the effort was useless.

      More than 17,000 seats on local councils across the country's 14 provinces are up for grabs, but turnout was reportedly low.

      At the same time, at least seven people were killed as the Syrian army continued its crackdown on anti-government protesters, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

      Fighting was especially fierce in the northwestern province of Idlib, the central city of Homs and the southern Dara'a province as the general strike called by protesters in their campaign of civil disobedience entered its second day.

      A UN report released Monday said that close to 5,000 people have been killed in protests in Syria since last March. Over 14,000 people have been arrested, and over 12,000 have fled the country, the report said.