Syria ‘mulled killing Vatican ambassador’

Intelligence chief said to have proposed assassination after Archbishop Zenari criticized international silence on civil war

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Vatican ambassador to Syria Mario Zenari (photo credit: YouTube image)
Vatican ambassador to Syria Mario Zenari (photo credit: YouTube image)

A top Syrian intelligence official planned to assassinate the Vatican’s ambassador to Syria following his outspoken criticism of the Bashar Assad regime late last week, a Saudi news website reported on Tuesday.

Archbishop Mario Zenari told Vatican radio on February 15 that he was saddened by the silence of the international community in the face of the bloodshed in Syria.

“We are walking over the blood of the victims,” said Zenari, while the international community has “washed its hands of the Syrian conflict.”

Following Zenari’s interview, the head of Syria’s Air Force Intelligence Directorate, Major General Jamil Hassan, held a closed meeting with leading clerics including Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Badr Hassoun, the Saudi news site Elaph reported.

Hassan reportedly condemned Zenari’s statement and wondered “how to manipulate it for the regime’s benefit.” He then suggested assassinating Zenari on the Damascus-Beirut highway in a similar manner to the assassination of Iranian representative in Lebanon Hassan Shateri last week.

The regime could then issue a statement blaming the Free Syrian Army or the Nusra Front for the attack, Hassan reportedly proposed.

Syria is believed to be behind the assassination of many political figures in Lebanon over the past few years. Former prime minister Saad Hariri has even accused the Assad regime of complicity in the 2005 killing of his father, Rafik Hariri.

Elaph reported on Tuesday that the life of Saad Hariri, now living in Paris, is also continuously under threat. 

Meanwhile, a delegation headed by the Vatican’s Cor Unum humanitarian affairs department, Cardinal Robert Sarah, is scheduled to arrive in Jordan on Tuesday to meet with Syrian refugees and with King Abdullah II.

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