BEIRUT

Middle East

Syrian tycoon warns Israel of chaos, vows to fight

NEW YORK: Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf warned Israel of instability if the regime of his cousin President Bashar al-Assad falls, vowing to “fight to the end,” according to The New York Times.

“If there is no stability here, there’s no way there will be stability in Israel,” said Makhlouf, who is on a list of 13 Syrian figures subjected to European Union sanctions for their role in violence against protesters opposing Assad’s autocratic government.

“Nobody can guarantee what will happen after, God forbids, anything happens to this regime,” Makhlouf told the U.S. daily.

“What I’m saying is don’t let us suffer, don’t put a lot of pressure on the president, don’t push Syria to do anything it is not happy to do,” said Makhlouf who is a member of Assad’s Alawite minority.

The regime of Assad has maintained calm along its borders despite close ties with Iran, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In videos posted on YouTube by Syrian activists, protesters have called on the Syrian regime to send its troops to the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 war and later annexed, instead of using them to attack Syrian demonstrators.

Assad’s regime has been battling a pro-democracy uprising across the country since March 15. Between 600 and 700 people have been killed and at least 8,000 arrested since then, rights groups say.

However, the Syrian regime appears determined to continue to fight for its survival. “We have a lot of fighters,” said Makhlouf.

“The decision of the government now is that they decided to fight,” said Makhlouf, widely-despised by opponents for allegedly exploiting his relation with the president to build his commercial empire, including Syriatel, the largest cellphone operator in the country.

“We will sit here. We call it a fight until the end.”

For almost two months, near-daily protests have railed against Assad’s regime, while troops and security forces have brutally repressed the uprising.

The EU is to look at fresh sanctions this week against Assad’s regime, its diplomacy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday.

 

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