Israel is preparing to receive Syrian Alawite refugees on the occupied Golan Heights if the regime of President Bashar al-Assad collapses, Israel's army chief of staff said on Tuesday.
"On the day the Assad regime falls, it is expected to harm the Alawite clan. We are preparing to receive Alawite refugees on the Golan Heights," Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told MPs at the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defence, in remarks communicated by a spokesman.
"It is impossible to predict in the current situation what is going to happen the date after the fall of Bashar al-Assad," he said of the Syrian leader.
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Assad's government is engaged in a bloody crackdown against pro-democracy activists, which the United Nations says killed more than 5,000 people in 2011.
Earlier this month, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said he believed Assad's family had only "a few weeks" left in control of the strife-torn country.
"The Assad family has no more than a few weeks to remain in control in Syria," Barak told the same parliamentary committee, and later said such a development could have "implications" for the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Assad family are Alawites, members of a Shiite minority group who are strongly represented in the top ranks of the Syrian army and the ruling Baath party.