Netanyahu condemns "massacre" as Israel sharpens tone on Syria

Netanyahu condemns "massacre" as Israel sharpens tone on Syria

Israeli officials sharply stepped up their rhetoric against Syria Sunday, with some terming the ongoing killings there "genocide," and calling for international military intervention against President Bashar al-Assad, dpa reported.

"When I say that we see what goes on around us, we also see what goes on in Syria. A massacre is simply being carried out there," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet.

He accused Iran and Lebanon's radical Shiite Hezbollah movement of being accessories to the murder by backing Syria.

"The face of that axis of evil (Syria, Iran, Hezbollah) has been exposed in all its ugliness. Everybody had better understand in what kind of an environment we live."

Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz and President Shimon Peres went further, explicitly siding with the opposition.

"A crime against humanity, genocide, is going on today in Syria and the silence of world powers defies all human logic. In the not so distant past, the powers decided in favour of military intervention in Libya. Here, the required conclusion is: immediate intervention to topple the Assad regime," said Mofaz, of the centrist Kadima party, which joined Netanyahu's right-wing coalition last month.

"The West must ask itself: 'What else needs to happen in Syria? What more horrible images must be broadcast on television, until they decide that it is time to act?" he told Israel Army Radio.

Peres, whose duties as president are largely ceremonial, called the ongoing killings "an unprecedented scandal."

"I have a lot of respect for the rebels who go out every day to demonstrate opposite live ammunition, and I hope they will win," he said in remarks broadcast on Israel Radio, before taking off for a five-day visit to the United States.

Peres too called for international intervention to save "the elderly, women and children."

Israel was non-committal in the early stages of the 15-month Syrian uprising. Although it regards al-Assad as an enemy, Israel's border with its north-eastern neighbour has been largely stable and it feared a regime change could mean uncertainty.

Israeli officials, however, have become more vocal in their condemnation of Syria as attacks on civilians intensify. Sunday's remarks were among the strongest yet to clearly take sides.

Israel has said it has also offered humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, via the International Committee for the Red Cross.

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