Israel is prepared to absorb Alawite refugees who may flee to the Golan Heights after Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime comes to an end, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Tuesday.

Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Gantz said that Assad’s leadership was “cracking,” and that Alawites were expected to suffer once his government fell.

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The chief of staff also explained that the current situation in Syria made it difficult for Assad to attack Israel.

However, the Syrians’ weapons systems still exist and are well-maintained, he added. These weapons include SA-17 missiles that challenge the IAF’s “superiority in the air.”

Gantz addressed the Iranian threat as well, saying it would be a “critical year” for Tehran. He said there may be more “unnatural” events in Iran, as well as changes in leadership and continuing pressure from the international community, as the Islamic Republic continues to develop nuclear weapons.

He added that while stronger sanctions influenced Iran’s leaders, he did not see them halting their nuclear ambitions.

International pressure, he went on, could lead Tehran to decide to close the Strait of Hormuz or export terror attacks – for example, to Hezbollah.

According to the chief of staff, Hezbollah has weapons stored in Syria, which may trickle into Lebanon. He added that the threat from Lebanon had increased fivefold in recent years.

Gantz also referred to “security chaos” in Egypt, which has not made Sinai a priority. He expressed concerns that terror might be “outsourced” to Sinai from groups outside of Gaza. In addition, the connection between Gaza and Egypt has been strengthened, due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s increased power, and Hamas may turn Sinai into a site for more terrorist attacks.

He said he would “act to enforce the quiet” in Gaza, warning that Hamas was growing stronger.

When asked about “price tag” attacks, Gantz explained that only a marginal group was initiating the attacks, and that most of the population in the West Bank was law-abiding.

However, he added, the events have become common enough that they are a “serious phenomenon” that must be stopped.

In light of defense-budget cuts that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently announced, which are meant to fund free education for children aged three and four, Gantz asserted that he was “not prepared for budgetary necessities to harm the IDF.”

“I am disturbed that budgetary decisions will increase the gap between our capabilities and our security needs. The IDF needs to be stronger,” he declared.

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