Israel accuses Syria of genocide, urges intervention

JERUSALEM Sun Jun 10, 2012 4:49pm IST

1 of 2. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 10, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

Related Topics

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A senior Israeli minister accused Syria on Sunday of committing genocide during its crackdown on a 15-month uprising and made the Jewish state's most explicit call yet for military action against its Arab neighbour.

Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz urged world powers to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the same way that last year's Western-backed campaign in Libya overthrew former strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

In separate comments, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Syrian government was slaughtering civilians with the support of Israel's arch-foes Iran and Hezbollah. "The world should understand what kind of environment we live in," he said in remarks to his cabinet that were later broadcast.

Israel has until recently been slow to call for Assad's fall, wary of worsening the turmoil in Syria. The countries are enemies but have been in a mostly stable stand-off for decades.

With hourly media reports in Israel of Syrian civilian deaths, public anger has been growing and Israeli officials have been stepping up their criticism.

Israeli ministers have called for unspecified tougher action against Syria in recent weeks. Senior officials, speaking off the record, have confirmed that eventual action might include foreign military intervention.

"A crime against humanity, genocide, is being conducted in Syria today. And the silence of the world powers is contrary to all human logic," Mofaz told Israel's Army Radio.

"Since in the not-distant past the powers chose military intervention in Libya, here the required conclusion would be immediate military intervention to bring down the Assad regime."

Talk of genocide is especially loaded in Israel, which was founded in part as a haven for survivors of the Holocaust.

RAPPING RUSSIA

Mofaz, a former top general and political centrist who became junior partner in Netanyahu's conservative coalition government last month, criticised Russia for arming Damascus.

"Best-case, this is irresponsibility, and worst-case, it is a partnership in the slaughter," Mofaz said.

A longtime Syrian ally, Russia opposes outside intervention against Assad. Moscow has denied supporting any side in the conflict or providing arms that could be used in a civil war.

Mofaz said Israel had limited options on Syria.

"We cannot get involved, for understandable reasons. But I think that the West, led by the United States, has an interest in guarding the threshold (so) genocide does not take place."

Assad's government has condemned the killing of civilians in Syria, blaming anti-regime insurgents for the bloodshed.

Netanyahu sought to broaden responsibility out beyond Damascus, saying: "This is a slaughter carried out not only by the Syrian government. It is being helped by Iran and (Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla group) Hezbollah."

Israel's main regional worry is Tehran's nuclear programme, which world powers have been trying to curb through sanctions and negotiations, so far with limited results. Iran dismisses accusations it is trying to develop nuclear bombs.

Netanyahu has steered clear of explicitly calling for military intervention in Syria, telling Bild newspaper last week: "That's a decision for the leading powers who are now talking about it. The less I say as prime minister of Israel, the better."

A Netanyahu spokesman declined to comment on Mofaz's remarks.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Mideast Conflict

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Development Report

Development Report

U.N. urges sustained effort to improve flagging development.  Full Article 

Downed Plane

Downed Plane

"Weeks or months" until Malaysian remains from MH17 can be returned home - PM.  Full Article 

Food Scandal

Food Scandal

China probes 581 firms, restaurants as food safety scare spreads.  Full Article 

Plane Crash

Plane Crash

Taiwan says weather not seen as cause of plane crash that killed 48.  Full Article 

Fighting Polio

Fighting Polio

Nigeria may have no polio cases next year, says Bill Gates.  Full Article 

Health Study

Health Study

Paracetamol no better than placebo for low back pain, study finds.  Full Article 

Strategic Plans

Strategic Plans

China plans railway to India, Nepal borders by 2020.  Full Article 

Leaving Russia

Leaving Russia

Disenchanted with Putin, some Russians vote with their feet.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage