The suicide bombing that killed top members of Bashar Assad’s inner circle “is a
7 on the Richter scale,” a senior defense official said Wednesday, predicting
that Assad’s days were numbered as leader of Syria.
A bomb in a Damascus
security building on Wednesday killed Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, former
defense minister and senior military official General Hassan Turkmani and
Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat. Syria’s interior minister as well as
several other officials were seriously wounded in the attack.
afternoon, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny
Gantz held consultations with officers from Military Intelligence, Northern
Command as well as the Military Advocate General’s Office to discuss the
Barak spoke later Wednesday night with US Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta and updated him on Israel’s concerns regarding the situation in
“We believe that the assassination of the top Syrian government
officials will speed up Assad’s downfall,” Barak told Panetta, who is scheduled
to visit Israel later this month. “We are also closely tracking the possibility
that Hezbollah will try to move advanced military platforms or chemical weapons
from Syria to Lebanon.”
In recent weeks, senior officials have said in
meetings with foreign guests that Israel is particularly concerned about one of
three scenarios. The first is concern about the transfer of Syria’s chemical
weapons to a third party like Hezbollah.
The second worrisome scenario is
the fragmentation of the country, whereby certain parties, or even a lone
gunman, may gain access to bases with chemical weapons or other weapons systems,
and then try to use them against Israel. For example, there are concerns that
tanks – or even airplanes – could fall into the hands of someone who will use
them against Israel.
The third scenario is the possibility that Assad –
feeling his back against the wall – will decide to take Israel down with him,
and as a result fire everything he has toward Israel.
“The entire country
is in shock, and has been in shock for a year-and-a-half, but what happened
today is earth shattering,” a senior defense official said. “Assad is living on
borrowed time. He won’t want to see himself hung in the town
Assessments in the Israeli defense establishment are that Assad
might turn to Russia and ask for help in escaping the country.
significantly bolstered its naval presence in the Mediterranean in recent weeks
and remains a significant presence in the port city of Tartus.
Premier Silvan Shalom said on Israel Radio that Israel was preparing for all
contingencies, but would not become actively involved in the developments in
Syria. He said there were those who wanted Israel to get involved precisely so
they can blame anyone receiving Israeli assistance for collaborating with