Damascus: Syrian President Bashar Al Assad reiterated yesterday his country's staunch support for the Palestinians in the face of the Israeli military offensive in Gaza as Tel Aviv warned that it held Damascus responsible for the captured soldier's fate.
Bashar declared his position during a meeting with members of the Central Command of Syria's National Progressive Front, Syria's official news agency Sana reported. The Front is an umbrella organisation of pro-government political parties.
Bashar spoke to the front about "major developments in the Palestinian arena and stressed Syria's staunch support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli oppressive apparatus," Sana said, in a clear reference to the military offensive on Gaza, that Israel said it launched to force the release of the captured soldier.
Bashar's comments came as Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz warned Syria yesterday that he held it responsible for the soldier's fate.
Hamas' Syrian-based leaders, headed by Khalid Mesha'al, are responsible for Israeli's capture, and because Damascus harbours them, Israel holds it responsible for his fate, Peretz told a meeting of Israeli Labor Party officials in occupied Jerusalem.
"I suggest that Bashar [Al] Assad, who is trying to operate with his eyes shut tight, open his eyes, because he is responsible," Peretz cautioned.
Last week, Israeli aircraft buzzed Bashar's summer residence to try to pressure him to lean on Mesha'al to release the soldier.
During the front's meeting, Bashar talked about "efforts exerted by Syria to support and defend the Palestinian people and to help make the national dialogue among Palestinian factions a success," Sana said.
"The hostile positions and baseless accusations made by Israel against the national powers in the Arab world will only make us more committed to Arab rights," Bashar was quoted by Sana as telling the front's members.