Israeli DM: We'll Work to Depose Assad if Attacked

Defense minister says Israel will hold Damascus responsible over revenge attacks launched from Syria for last week's Golan strike.

Yaakov Levi ,

Moshe Ya'alon studies Golan border with IDF troops (file)
Moshe Ya'alon studies Golan border with IDF troops (file)
Flash 90

While Israel prepared for the fallout from last week's elimination of a top Hezbollah terrorist and an Iranian general on the Golan Heights, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon had a message for anyone planning to attack Israel from the direction of Syria: Israel would hold Damascus responsible for any “revenge attacks” coming from Syrian territory, to the extent that Jerusalem would side itself with forces seeking to unseat Bashar Assad from the leadership of Syria, if necessary.

Tensions remained high in northern Israel in the aftermath of the elimination of Jihad Mughniyeh, said to be Hezbollah's “commander of the Golan Heights area,” along with a crew of Hezbollah terrorists, and Iranian general Abu Ali Tabtabai. Roads in the area of the Israel-Lebanon border have been closed, and tanks and armored personnel carriers were reportedly deployed along the northern border. Lebanese media outlets are reporting Israeli jets and helicopters over the Har Dov area along the Lebanese border.

Late Wednesday, the US issued a travel warning to American citizens and government personnel in Israel, citing the recent tensions along Israel’s northern borders and the terrorist stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. “Because of concerns about security on Israel’s northern borders, U.S. government personnel are currently required to obtain advance approval if they wish to travel within 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of the Lebanon border, or travel on or east of Route 98 in the Golan Heights,” the advisory said. “Further, in light of the stabbing attack on a public bus in Tel Aviv on January 21, U.S. citizens are reminded that due to security concerns, U.S. government employees are prohibited from using public buses throughout Israel and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria -ed.),” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah said Sunday that Israel had long ago made its “choice,” and had for years actively been trying to unseat Assad. Hezbollah deputy chief Na'im Kassam said Friday that the Israeli collaboration with the “heretics” fighting Assad was “visible to everyone. If Israel thinks it can uproot the opposition states – Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine – it is mistaken. We will continue the Jihad from any and every place it is needed.”

Despite the increased tension, residents have been urged residents to continue with their regular daily routines. Giora Zeltz, chairman of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, said that despite the large deployment of IDF troops and the increased police and border guard presence in the area, “we have not received any instructions to change our normal activities. The message we are getting from security officials is that life should continue as usual.” Zeltz said that IDF officials had given him three reasons for the increased vigilance: Besides concerns that Hezbollah will try to carry out revenge terror attacks against Israel - “for which we must be ready,” he said - “the IDF is also sending a message to our neighbors that we will not tolerate attacks, and to give residents a sense of safety.”