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Assad moves forces from Golan to suppress violence

JTA

July 18, 2012 | 2:31 pm

Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on July 3. Photo by REUTERS/SANA/Handout

Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on July 3. Photo by REUTERS/SANA/Handout

Syria’s defense minster and several other government officials were killed or hurt by a suicide bomber in Damascus, a day after Israel’s army intelligence chief said that President Bashar Assad had moved his troops from the Golan Heights to the capital.

Also killed in Wednesday’s blast was Assad’s brother-in-law, who was Syria’s deputy defense minister. The bomber, who struck during a meeting of government and security heads, reportedly was a bodyguard.

The blast comes after four days of clashes in Damascus between government troops and anti-government activists.

“Israel is closely monitoring all of the developments in Syria,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement released from his office. In the hours following the blast, Barak held consulations with “the relevant security and intelligence officials” regarding the situation in Syria, according to the statement.

On Tuesday, Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi told a Knesset committee that Assad had removed many of his forces from the Golan Heights to the areas of conflict inside Syria, according to news services briefed by a Knesset spokesman.

“He’s not afraid of Israel at this point, but mainly wants to augment his forces around Damascus,” Kochavi reportedly said.

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