The Syrian government on Saturday night condemned Israel for allegedly killing a Syrian intelligence agent along the border with the Golan Heights.
“The cabinet stressed, in a statement, that those terrorist acts will only increase the determination of the Syrian Arab people to continue resisting the occupier and liberating the occupied Syrian Golan,” according to the official SANA news agency.
The Syrian cabinet “condemned that cowardly criminal act,” according to the report.
Syrian media reports earlier Saturday said the Israeli military shot dead a former security prisoner, Midhat as-Saleh in the town of Ain Eltinah. As-Saleh had fled to Syria years ago, served in parliament and was reportedly working against Israel in Syrian intelligence.
The state-run SANA news agency said as-Saleh was targeted by gunfire, not an airstrike.
According to Al-Jazeera, he was shot dead by an Israeli sniper as he stood near his home, near the border with Israel.
Israel’s military did not comment on the matter, in line with its policy of not acknowledging specific actions in Syria, save for those that are in retaliation for attacks from the country.
The alleged assassination appeared to be tied to Israel’s ongoing efforts to prevent Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group from establishing a permanent base of operations on the Golan border.
As-Saleh, from the Golan Druze village of Majdal Shams, was jailed in Israel for security-related crimes for 12 years until his release in 1997. He then fled across the border to Syria, serving as a member of the Syrian parliament, namely as head of the “Golan Heights portfolio,” according to Syrian media.
In recent years, he has served in Syrian intelligence, still focusing on the country’s efforts to regain the Golan Heights, which were captured by Israel in 1967 and effectively annexed by Jerusalem in 1981.
As-Saleh has in the past worked to recruit people from Majdal Shams — a town whose residents generally do not take Israeli citizenship and who often still identify with Damascus — to serve as assets of the Syrian government and gather intelligence in Israel.
استشهاد الاسير المحرر مدحت الصالح، جراء استهدافه من قبل العدو الصهيوني، في موقع عين التينة مقابل بلدته مجدل شمس المحتلة. pic.twitter.com/zZxIqZxgci
— SUHAIB (@_suhaib001) October 16, 2021
Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years — most recently on Wednesday night, according to Syrian media reports — but rarely acknowledges or discusses specific details of its operations.
Israel fears Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah.