'We're Watching You': Israel's Alleged Killing of Ex-Syrian MP Might Be Message to Tehran, Damascus
On Saturday, Damascus extended its "deepest" condolences to the relatives of Midhat Saleh, accusing Israel of killing the ex-Syrian lawmaker. The Jewish state has yet to comment on the issue.
Israel's alleged killing of former Syrian lawmaker Midhat Saleh in the Jewish state-controlled portion of the Golan Heights
could indicate a new stage in Tel Aviv's "war against Iranian entrenchment in neighbouring Syria", according to the Associated Press
The news agency cited Yossi Yehoshua, a military correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, as saying that Saleh "answered directly to the Iranians", an apparent reference to the ex-lawmaker ostensibly being involved in helping Tehran build up its capabilities against Israel in Syria.
Ex-Israeli National Security Adviser Giora Eiland, in turn, told the station Army Radio that 54-year-old Saleh allegedly being killed by Israel means that the Jewish state wanted to send a message to the Iranians.
"I assume this was not an act of revenge. We're not talking about a mass murderer", Eiland argued.
He was echoed by Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow and expert on Iran at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, who claimed that Israel's purported killing of Saleh delivers a powerful message to Iran and Syria, warning them against activities near the Israeli border.
"It says that we have many ways and many techniques. We're watching you", Guzansky said.
The comments come after the Syrian government accused Israel of assassinating Saleh on Saturday in the border village of Ein el-Tinneh, where he ran a Syrian government office on Golan Heights affairs.
The government condemned the ex-lawmaker's murder as an "act of aggression and terrorism", adding it "will only increase the determination of the Syrian people to continue the struggle against the occupation to liberate the Golan Heights".
Saleh had spent 12 years in jail in Israel until his release in 1997. He then fled to Syria where he served as a member of the Syrian Parliament until 2005, when he was given the Golan Heights' portfolio by President Bashar Assad.
Tehran and Tel Aviv have no diplomatic relations
, with Iran refusing to recognise the Jewish state and Israel pledging to do its best to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon, among other bilateral barbs.
Tel Aviv, for its part, points the finger at Tehran, who, Israel claims, is providing weapons to Damascus as a means of attacking the Jewish state. Iran denies having a military presence in the Arab Republic apart from its advisers sent in at the request of Damascus to help the Syrian government fight terrorist groups.
Golan Heights Issue
Israel's purported killing of Saleh comes after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said last month that Tel Aviv is not considering handing over the Jewish state-controlled portion of the Golan Heights to Syria.
"No negotiations [are] taking place right now between Israel and Syria. There is not much to negotiate actually aside from security issues. Israel is not even considering, and never will, returning the Golan Heights to Syria, there is no[t] much room for negotiations right now", Lapid pointed out at the time.
Israel took control of about 1,200 square kilometres of Syria's Golan Heights in 1967, after launching a preemptive air strike on Egyptian airfields and kicking off the Six-Day War against a coalition of Arab nations including Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.
In 1981, Tel Aviv formally extended its sovereignty over the territory, with the UN Security Council unanimously adopting a resolution later that year to declare the move "null and void".
US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognising Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March 2019, in a move that was rejected by dozens of countries, including America's European allies.
The Syrian government has repeatedly stressed that it will never give up its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, warning that it has the legal authority to regain the territory using any means necessary.