Syria has accused Israel of being behind the assassination of a high-ranking government official near the border of occupied Syrian Golan Heights yesterday.
Midhat Al-Saleh, 54, an intelligence officer, was the head of Syria's Golan Affairs Office and a former lawmaker. According to the state-run SANA news agency, Saleh was shot outside his home near the village of Ain Eltineh, situated opposite the Druze town of Majdal Shams.
AlJazeera reported that he was killed by an Israeli sniper, although the Israeli military has not confirmed or denied the incident in line with a longstanding policy.
"The cabinet stressed, in a statement, that those terrorist acts will only increase the determination of the Syrian Arab people to continue resisting the occupier and liberating the occupied Syrian Golan," SANA reported. The Syrian cabinet also condemned the "cowardly criminal act".
Saleh was from Majdal Shams and served 12 years in an Israeli prison on security-related charges. He was released in 1997, and the following year travelled to Syria, becoming a member of parliament in 2000. Saleh is credited with facilitating the presence of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement in the area close to Israel's border.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the Golan is a "strategic goal" for his government and that he intends to quadruple the Israeli settler population there. "The Golan Heights is Israel, period," he said to applause during an address at the Makor Rishon Golan Conference in Haspin, an illegal settlement in the southern Golan Heights.
In response to Bennett's remarks, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that his government is "unable to change the eternal fact that Golan was and still remains an Arab and Syrian land" and stressed that the Syrian army is "determined to liberate the Golan Heights from the Israeli occupation and foil the Israeli plots".