“Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there," a senior Israeli intelligence officer in the north of the country was quoted ny the paper as saying.
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An additional defense official, who also remained unnamed in The Times' report, said that at first Israel had assessed that Assad’s regime would fall sooner.
“We originally underestimated Assad’s staying power and overestimated the rebels’ fighting power,” the official said, adding that in any case, it was preferable for Israel that the two sides fight each other instead of joining forces against Israel.
The comments came in wake of comments made in the New York Times Wednesday in which a senior Israeli official signaled that Israel was considering further military strikes on Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamic militants.
Aftermath of alleged Israeli strike (Photo: EPA)
The official also warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that his government would face crippling consequences if it retaliated against Israel, the New York Times reported.
“Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region," the official said in an interview.
Earlier on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported Russia has sent at least a dozen warships to its naval base on the Syrian coast, a buildup that US and European officials see as a newly aggressive stance meant partly to warn the West and Israel not to intervene in Syria's bloody conflict.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that Russia has sent advanced anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria. The missiles are apparently an improved version of the Yakhonts, which Russia has previously provided to Syria, and have been outfitted with an advanced radar that makes them more effective.
General Martin Dempsey commented on the issue and said that a Russian shipment of anti-ship missiles to Syria was ill-timed and could embolden President Bashar Assad's forces, in addition to prolong the conflict.
"It's at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering, so it's ill-timed and very unfortunate," Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon.
On Thursday, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that Russia would remain committed to previously signed arms deal "regarding agreements pertaining to aerial defense weapons."
Lavrov was referring to the S-300 advanced missile defense system, considered by many to be a game changing addition to Syria's arsenal, which could intercept aircraft in a range exceeding 100 km.
The reports an developments came on the back drop of what was perceived to be a failure on the part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who had attempted to block the Russian sale of S-300 advanced missiles to Syria by making a lighting visit to Russia last week.
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