JERUSALEM -- The head of Israeli military intelligence told his country’s parliament on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad won’t be able to defeat the armed uprising that’s spread throughout Syria and that the conflict there has allowed what he called “radical Islam” to gain ground on Israel’s northern border.
Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi told a closed session of the Knesset that he didn’t know how long Assad could remain in power, but that his fall was a certainty. “It may take more time – I can’t give you an exact number – but it will happen,” Kochavi said, according to notes taken during his testimony and shared later at an official briefing that was overseen by an Israeli military censor.
Kochavi, who displayed satellite photographs of Syrian artillery batteries during his testimony, described the Syrian military’s tactics against the armed rebel groups as “brutal” and said 500 to 700 people were dying each week in the fighting. He warned of a growing presence of Islamist fighters. "We can see an ongoing flow of al Qaida and global jihad activists into Syria," Kochavi said, according to the version shared with reporters.
His assessment came as diplomats in New York continued to debate whether to extend authorization for United Nations monitors to remain in Syria past Friday, when their original mandate expires. A Security Council vote on a resolution to extend their mission could come as soon as Wednesday, though sharp differences over the proposal remain between the United States and Great Britain on one side and Russia and China on the other. Any of those countries could kill a resolution with its veto.
The most contentious issue is the insistence by the United States and Great Britain that a renewed U.N. monitoring mission be authorized under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which could be used to permit the use of international military force to resolve the Syrian situation. China and Russia have said they oppose any resolution that could be used to authorize a Libya-style use of outside military force. On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov charged that the United States was using “blackmail” to force the Chapter 7 approach by refusing to extend the monitoring mission otherwise.
On Tuesday, U.N. Syria envoy Kofi Annan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Afterward, Annan expressed hope that the two sides could resolve their issues and agree on extending the U.N. monitoring mission.
"I would hope that the council will continue its discussions and hopefully find language that will pull everybody together for us to move forward,” he said.
The effectiveness of the U.N. monitors has been debated sharply since a six-point peace plan that called for a cease-fire was to have gone into effect in April. Violence initially dropped when the plan went into effect, and the number of people killed, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a London-based human rights organization, declined in April and May from its high point in March.
But neither side ever honored the cease-fire completely – rebel attacks on Syrian government positions increased during those two months, according to a recent study of rebel activity by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War – and the unarmed monitors suspended their activities in mid-June, saying it had become too dangerous to visit the conflict zones.