Bashar Assad
Bashar Assad
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Syrian officials believe that Israel was behind the assassination of a top military official responsible for contacts with Hezbollah and for the country's nuclear program, according to a cable sent from the U.S. embassy to Washington just two days after the attack and released Tuesday by WikiLeaks.

General Mohammed Suleiman was killed by a sniper on August 1, 2008 at his family's summer home on the Tartus Beach in northern Syria. He was considered a close associate of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On August 3, 2008, after the assassination had been made public in the Arab media, the U.S. embassy in Damascus sent a cable revealing Syria's assessments of the murder.

The cable was classified as secret and contained confirmation from Syrian journalists with close ties to the embassy that the government in Damascus was looking into every possible lead regarding who could have perpetrated the attack. The Syrian regime had ordered all media not to report on the incident.

Like in every other recent assassination case in Syria, Israel is the immediate suspect, said the cable. The Syrian security forces were well aware of the fact that Israeli forces had easier access to the Tartus beach than elsewhere in the country, it said.

Suleiman had not been a particularly well-known public figure but the military echelon knew him to be a close aide to the president, added the cable.

The U.S. embassy also wrote that if Syria did in fact suspect Israel to be behind the assassination, they would indeed try to hide every detail to prevent a similar incident from occurring again in the future.

Syria could try to retaliate using emissaries, said the cable, adding that the assassination was likely to dissuade those in the Damascus government who had expressed interest in renewing negotiations with Israel.