Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz on Sunday accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of committing genocide during his crackdown on a 15-month uprising, in an unusually harsh censure of the Jewish state's Arab neighbour.
Mofaz also criticized Russia for arming Damascus and repeated Israel's demand for international military intervention to topple Assad, akin to last year's campaign in Libya.
Mofaz's comments came amid increasing Israeli condemnation of the Syrian regime. Earlier Sunday, President Shimon Peres said that the world is not doing enough to stop the bloodshed in Syria, and that he hopes the Syrian rebels defeat Assad. Also Sunday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that Israel is offering humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Syria through the International Committee of the Red Cross. On Saturday, opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich called on the international community to impose a full economic embargo on Syria.
Israel had until recently been slow to call for Assad's fall, wary of worsening the turmoil in Syria. But with hourly media reports in Israel of Syrian civilian deaths, public anger has been growing and Israeli officials have been stepping up their criticism.
"A crime against humanity, genocide, is being conducted in Syria today. And the silence of the world powers is contrary to all human logic," said Mofaz during an interview on Army Radio.
Foreign powers were "making do with flaccid condemnation" rather than intervening to overthrow Assad, he added.
"Worse than that is the Russian conduct
, which weakly condemns the slaughter while continuing to arm Assad's murderous regime. Best-case, this is irresponsibility, and worst-case, it is a partnership in the slaughter," Mofaz said.
A longtime Syrian ally, Russia opposes outside intervention against Damascus. Moscow has denied supporting any side in the conflict or providing arms that could be used in a Syrian civil war.
Russia says it would be open to Assad's exit from power as long as it was a result of an inclusive political process among Syrians.
Mofaz, a former top general and political centrist who joined Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition government last month, said Israel had limited options on Syria but had to lobby for international action.
"We need to enlist the West. We need our voice to be heard. This slaughter is being carried out not far from Israel's border," he said.
"We cannot get involved, for understandable reasons. But I think that the West, led by the United States, has an interest in guarding the threshold (so) genocide does not take place."