Madhat al-Saleh was working to further Iranian entrenchment in the Syrian Golan Heights, which Israel has said it would not allow.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Madhat al-Saleh, assassinated Friday allegedly by Israeli snipers, lived on the Syrian side of the Hermon mountain range on the Golan Heights, making him a convenient target for the IDF, Walla News reported Monday.
Saleh, a Syrian whom Israeli officials accused of working for the Iranians to help them set up a terrorist infrastructure under their control close to the Israeli border, was shot near his home in Ein al-Tina. The town is within shouting distance of the Druze town of Majdal Shams on the Israeli side of the Hermon.
There is a well-known hill in the town that is actually dubbed the “shouting hill,” where Druze families, who have relatives on both sides of the boundary between the enemy countries, call out through megaphones to each other to exchange news. Saleh, who was born and grew up in Majdal Shams, had a family home near the hill, and used this method of communications for years, sources told the news site.
He was easily recognizable as a target, said the sources.
“Whoever wanted to kill him didn’t need to many identifying features,” they said, “because he was a fat man who stood almost two meters tall.”
Saleh escaped to Syria in 1997 after serving 12 years in Israeli jails for terrorist offenses and briefly served as the Golan representative in the Syrian Parliament. He was later appointed as an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad on the Golan. The Syrian government blamed Israel for his death, saying that he had been “targeted by the Israeli enemy with bursts of treacherous bullets while returning to his home.”
Syrian media has reported that the attackers had to have crossed about a kilometer into Syrian territory in order to carry out the assassination. According to Israeli experts quoted by Walla, they then had to erase all signs of their presence and departure, “to prevent an escalation in the border area and a real-time – or later – response by the other side. The precise shooting would then remain deniable and not elicit a reaction.”
Israel has admitted to carrying out hundreds of attacks against Iranian targets in Syria, but has kept mum on many others, including this one. Almost all the attacks have been missile strikes by IAF jets on objectives such as airbases being used by Iranian forces, weapons convoys and other military targets.
Damascus repeatedly complains about these attacks on its sovereignty, but has not tried to overtly retaliate.
Israel has specifically warned about Iranian attempts to entrench itself as the dominant power in the Golan Heights by subverting villagers and building up weapons caches and other infrastructure in the region. This was allegedly Saleh’s area of expertise, which would be a reason for Jerusalem to order him killed when there was a high chance of success.
According to a report Sunday by the International Middle East Media Center, a Palestinian news organization, Saleh had survived several previous IDF attempts on his life.