IDF Chief: Israel Ready to Absorb Some Syria Refugees Once Assad Falls

Benny Gantz says expects Bashar Assad's regime to collapse in near future and issue a blow to the Alawite community in Syria; Gantz: Assad is not like Gadhafi, he won't fight till last bullet.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Tuesday that Israel is preparing to absorb Alawite refugees once Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime collapses, which he expects to happen in the coming months.

Speaking at a Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs committee meeting, Gantz said Assad's turmoil could cause him to seek a military confrontation with Israel.

Barak and Gantz - Defense Ministry
Defense Ministry

"Assad cannot continue holding on to power and his downfall is expected to cause a crack in the radical axis," Gantz said.

"Assad and the Syrian regime may have a hard time acting against us in the short-term, but we also need to take into account that Syria has advanced weapons systems. They have advanced Russian arms such as Yakhont missiles."

The IDF chief said that he was not sure whether the Golan Heights, which border with Syria, will remain quiet in the near future.

"Assad is not the same type as [Former Libyan leader Muammar] Gahdafi, who fights until the last bullet down in the sewer. The day that the Syrian regime will fall, it will issue a blow to the Alawites, and we are preparing to absorb those refugees."

Gantz also discussed other threats the IDF perceives.

“The threat from Lebanon toward Israel has grown on every parameter in the last few years,” Gantz said. “The threats have grown to five times what they were before. It is likely that strategic warfare methods will pass from Syria to Hezbollah.”

Regarding the Gaza Strip and the likelihood of a second Gaza War, Gantz said that “in light of the Israeli deterrence that has been maintained, we must not be misguided by the silence.” Gantz added that the Sinai region is becoming an increasingly hostile terrorist region. “I will act to foil an incident even if that includes the risk of entering a new round of fighting. If I identify that there are abilities being developed, which are accompanied by a danger that will prevent us from acting as we could in the past, these would be necessary actions for maintaining the peace.”

Read this article in Hebrew.