Israel publicly warns Assad: If you attack us, we will topple your regime
Official tells New York Times transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah would destabilize entire region.
"If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel…he will risk forfeiting his regime," a senior Israeli official told the New York Times on Wednesday.
The Times' White House correspondent Mark Landler wrote that the official contacted the newspaper on his own initiative.
Landler added that the official had been briefed in the last two days by other senior Israeli officials, who have intimate knowledge of the recent developments in Syria. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
The official added that Israel is considering further strikes in Syria in order to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons into Hezbollah's hands.
"The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region,” the official said. "If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate."
“Israel has so far refrained from intervening in Syria’s civil war and will maintain this policy as long as Assad refrains from attacking Israel directly or indirectly,” the official added.
A senior Israeli official noted that the decision to contact the New York Times was made at the highest levels of Israeli government. According to him, the objective was to make Israel's position regarding the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah clear to Syria and the international community, as well as the dire consequences that a Syrian attack on Israel would have on the chances of survival of Assad's regime. The Prime Minister's Office refused to deny or confirm that they were behind the story in the New York Times.
Last week Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that Syria would supply his organization with 'game-changing weapons' in response to recent air raids near Damascus, which foreign reports attributed to Israel.
In response to the alleged attacks, he said, Damascus would provide the Lebanese militia with sophisticated weapons that it has not received in the past, adding that Hezbollah would support any group seeking to confront Israel in the Golan Heights.
However, despite the report, officials in the Arab world expressed doubt over the possibility that Damascus will in fact take part in opening a front in the Golan due to Israel's stance that it would hold Assad responsible for any attack coming from Syrian territory. It is believed that Israel would immediately respond to such attacks and strike targets in Syria and Lebanon.