According to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, Syria believed Israel was responsible for the 2008 assassination of President Bashar Assad’s top security aide, but was reluctant to publicize these suspicions.

Brig.-Gen. Muhammad Sulayman, who “enjoyed a reputation... as having special status and proximity to” Assad, was shot by a sniper in the Syrian beach town of Tartous, causing anxiety in the political elite of the country.

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“As in other recent assassinations in Syria, speculation about who could have done it will likely be rampant,” explains the cable, written in August 2008. “The most obvious suspects are the Israelis.”

Syrian security services believed that “the coastal city of Tartous would offer easier access to Israeli operatives than would more inland locations such as Damascus.”

Syria was “reluctant to level public accusations” against Israel because the government was not sure who killed Sulayman and “such accusations could impair or end Syria’s nascent peace negotiations with Israel,” according to the cable.

In addition, “publicizing the event would reveal yet another lapse in Syria’s vaunted security apparatus.

“Syria could seek to retaliate against Israel via proxies and allies in Lebanon or elsewhere,” the cable continues.

Another suspect in the killing was “pro-Saudi Islamist militants from Tripoli or the Nahr al-Bared camp,” because Tartous is close to the Lebanon-Syria border.

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