Israel’s preference is for Bashar Assad to remain in power rather than see radical Islamist forces take control in Syria, the former army chief of staff is quoted in Wednesday editions of the daily tabloid Maariv as saying.

Dan Halutz, who served as IDF chief of staff during the 2006 military campaign in Lebanon, told a gathering in Moscow that the prospect of Al-Qaida affiliated elements ruling Damascus in place of the Assad regime would be more problematic from Jerusalem’s standpoint.

“The regime in Syria is killing its citizens on a daily basis, but we need to admit that the opposition in Syria is comprised primarily of very extremist Muslims like Al-Qaida,” the former IDF chief is quoted as saying in Maariv. “The question that needs to be asked is, ‘What is good for Israel?’ It’s an important question, because we need to ask ourselves if we want to replace this bad regime with a very bad regime which we don’t know. And this is something that we need to seriously consider.”

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