The IDF is preparing for a possible flood of Syrian refugees following the potential fall of President Bashar Assad, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Tuesday.
Speaking at the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, the army chief said that members of Assad’s Alawite sect are expected to seek shelter in Israel should the Syrian leader, an Alawite himself, be removed from power.
“The day the Assad regime falls, this is expected to hurt the Alawite sect,” Army Chief Gantz said. “We are preparing to take in Alawite refugees on the Golan Heights.”
Addressing other possible implications of the Syrian upheaval, the chief of staff added that Israel fears that weapons could make their way from Syria to Lebanon. “We must monitor the process,” Gantz said.
Turning his attention to Iran, the army chief said that 2012 is expected to be a “critical year in the meeting place between ongoing nuclear efforts, the domestic changes in Iran’s leadership, increasing pressure from the international community, and things that are happening there unnaturally.”
Meanwhile, President Assad delivered a two-hour speech Monday, charging that foreign elements are aiming to topple his rule. The Syrian president claimed that a “foreign conspiracy” was causing the unrest in his country but was failing. The civil unrest in Syria was a test of the country’s national resilience, he added: “Outside forces did not find a foothold in the revolution that they had hoped for… Nobody is deceived anymore.”
He further claimed that it was his idea to send observers to Syria “to find out the truth… Syria will not close doors to Arab solutions,” he continued, as long as “they respect Syria’s sovereignty.” The Syrian leader also rejected Western and human rights groups’ claims about the violence in his country, insisting that he did not order troops to direct live fire at innocent civilians, “unless it’s a case of self-defense.”