Syria’s President, Bashar Al-Assad, claimed on Thursday that there is “no contradiction” between Israel and jihadist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS).
Assad was speaking in an interview with the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda and was responding to a question regarding Israel and ISIS.
“For me, it’s a very strange thing,” the interviewer said, according to an English transcript provided by the Syrian news agency SANA. “ISIS, with their ideology, never threaten Israel, and Israel never threaten[s] ISIS. It’s like some kind of agreement about – maybe not on friendship – but neutrality. Why, you think, it’s like this? And what’s the role of Israel in this war?”
Assad replied by claiming that all the “terrorist groups” which operate in his country are supported by Israel. The Assad regime uses the term “terrorist groups” to define all of Assad’s opponents, including both moderate, Western-backed rebels and jihadist groups like ISIS.
“Not only ISIS, of course, or Daesh, not only Al-Nusra; anyone, any terrorist who holds a machinegun and started killing and destroying in Syria was supported by Israel, either indirectly through the logistical support on the frontier, or sometimes by direct intervention by Israel against Syria in different areas in Syria,” he said, according to SANA.
“Why? Because Israel is our enemy, because they occupy our lands, and they look at Syria as [an] enemy of course, and for them they think if they undermine the position of Syria and make it weaker as a whole, as society, as army, as state, that will prevent Israel from moving toward peace, and the price of peace is to give back the Golan Heights to Syria,” continued the Syrian President.
“So, for them, Syria will be busy with another issue now, it would be busy to talk about the Golan or the peace process, or even to do anything to get back its land. That’s why Israel is supporting every terrorist, and there’s no contradiction between Israel and any organization like Al-Nusra or ISIS or any Al Qaeda-linked organization,” he claimed.
The comments are not the first time that Assad has claimed that Israel is assisting rebels. Two years ago, his adviser claimed that Israel was sending fighters to help the rebels fighting to oust Assad.
She also claimed that Israeli officers are operating in Syria and monitoring the fighting in the war-torn country.
Assad himself told an Argentinean newspaper in 2014 that Israel is assisting the rebels fighting to topple his regime.
“Israel is directly supporting the terrorist groups in two ways,” he claimed. “Firstly it gives them logistical support, and it also tells them what sites to attack and how to attack them."
The Syrian opposition, however, has claimed the exact opposite, that Israel was collaborating with Iran and Hezbollah to keep Assad in power.
In his interview with the Russian newspaper, the Syrian President also referred to the fighting in the divided second city of Aleppo, saying that taking Aleppo from rebel forces will be a springboard for Syria's army to push the "terrorists" back to Turkey.
"You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey to go back to where they come from, or to kill them. There's no other option," he stressed.