Message to Assad: While ground forces launched an operation in Gaza early Wednesday, four Israel Air Force F-16 aircrafts carried out an aerial flight over Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace, near the city of Latakia.
The IDF Spokesperson's Office reported that the flight was carried out as part of the Israel Defense Forces' operation and that Israel views the Syrian leadership as the main sponsor of terror groups headed by Hamas.
Following the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit on Sunday, Israel pointed a finger at Hamas leaders in Damascus, who are being sponsored by Syria under Assad's regime. Israeli officials raised the name of Hamas' politburo chief Khaled Mashaal as the person who ordered the Kerem Shalom attack.
Air Force planes flew around the palace while Assad was in it. The IDF took a similar step in the past, about three years ago, after a terror attack in a Haifa restaurant. This is considered a symbolic but significant move, mainly in light of recent declarations voiced by senior Israeli officials on Khaled Mashaal's link to what is taking place in Israel.
Simultaneously, the IDF raised its alert level on the northern border, mainly for fear that Hizbullah or other groups will attempt to take advantage of the situation and cause an escalation.
Hamas: Soldier to be kept alive
On Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said
Israel's military offensive in Gaza could jeopardize the life of the Israeli soldier held by Palestinians.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal, spoke hours after Israeli jets blasted a Gaza power station, knocking out electricity in most of the territory, and Israeli tanks and thousands of troops took up positions near the town of Rafah.
"Gaza is a small area," Abu Marzouk told The Associated Press in an interview. "Cleansing the area (by the Israeli army) would certainly affect the life of the prisoner soldier. He is among the resistance people."
Abu Marzouk said he believed the abductors want to keep the soldier alive to trade him for Palestinians detained by Israel.
"For sure, he's in hands that will protect him and treat him well. Our morals and our religion dictate that we do this to every prisoner," Abu Marzouk said.
Abu Marzouk said Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose country hosts him and Mashaal, is not involved in the prisoner issue.
But in the Palestinian territories, an aide to President Mahmoud Abbas said both Abbas and Egyptian officials had called Assad to ask him to persuade Mashaal to free the soldier.
Abu Marzouk said he knew nothing of reports that a Hamas delegation, possibly led by Mashaal, would be going to Cairo soon.