Israeli Defense Chief: Syria Building Up New Army That Will 'Surpass' Pre-war Size

'The Syrian army is not making do with taking control of all of Syria's territory,' Lieberman tells Israeli military forces

Noa Shpigel
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Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the Golan Heights, August 7, 2018.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the Golan Heights, August 7, 2018.Credit: Rami Shllush
Noa Shpigel

The Assad regime is rebuilding its military power after recapturing most of Syria's territory from rebel groups, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday.

"The Syrian army is not making do with taking control of all of Syria's territory, instead explicitly building up a broad, new ground army that will resume its prior dimensions and even surpass it," the defense minister said on a visit to an Armored Corps exercise in the Golan Heights.

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Last week, against the backdrop of the advance by Syrian forces toward the border with the Israeli Golan Heights, the Israeli army killed seven Islamic State terrorists on the Syrian side of the border. At the end of July, Syrian government forces retook positions along the border after Islamic State-linked militants gave up their last pocket of territory in the area, state media and an opposition-linked war-monitoring group reported.

Lieberman was accompanied on his visit to the Israeli Golan Heights by Israeli army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. "The Armored Corps has been and will be the Israeli army's primary strike force in any ground maneuver, particularly here in the north," Lieberman said, adding that the corps has been rehabilitated in recent years. Requests among new army recruits to serve in the corps have tripled over the past two years, he added.

Commenting on the sanctions that the United States announced on Iran on Monday, which are to be followed by tougher measures in November, the defense minister said: "The renewal of the sanctions is necessary particularly when it comes to those combatting terrorism. We very much support President Trump's decision and I hope that in the second stage, with the sanctions in November, we will also see them implemented. The assistance to Iran that European leaders have spoken about is not going to the Iranian economy, but rather to the Iranian regime, which is spreading terrorism."

In other developments in Syria, the New York Times has reported that Israel was responsible for Sunday's car bomb assassination of a Syrian rocket scientist. Citing an official from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency who spoke on condition of anonymity, the newspaper reported that the car bombing near the northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf that killed Dr. Aziz Asber was executed by agents from Israel's Mossad espionage agency.

Asber ran the northern bureau for research and science in Masyaf, where he was believed to be developing an underground weapons manufacturing facility with the help of the Iranians.