Syria’s defense minister and several other government officials were killed or hurt by a suicide bomber in Damascus Wednesday, a day after Israel’s Director of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi had said that President Bashar al-Assad’s days were numbered.
Also killed in Wednesday’s blast was Assad’s brother-in-law, who was Syria’s deputy defense minister. The bomber, who struck during a meeting of government and security heads, reportedly was a bodyguard.
The blast comes after four days of clashes in Damascus between government troops and anti-government activists.
“Assad has removed many of his forces that were in the Golan Heights to the areas of conflict (inside Syria),” Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi told a Knesset committee Tuesday.. “He’s not afraid of Israel at this point, but mainly wants to augment his forces around Damascus.”
Here’s the full report by Sana, the official Syrian news agency:
Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Armed Forces, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense Gen. Dawood Rajiha and Deputy Minister of Defense Gen. Asef Shawkat were martyred on Wednesday in a terrorist explosion targeting the National Security headquarters in Damascus.
The terrorist blast happened while a meeting of a number of ministers and authorities senior officials was taking place, causing injuries among the attendees, some of them critical.
Martyr Rajiha was born in 1947 in Damascus, and he graduated from the Military Academy in 1968, specialized in artillery. He took several military training courses, including Leadership and Staff course and Higher Staff course. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1998, ad he was made General in 2005.
He occupied various military posts including battalion and brigade commander and director of a number of directorates and departments at the Armed Forces, and he was appointed Deputy Chief of General Staff in 2004 and later Chief of General Staff in 2009.
He was awarded several military medals during the course of his career, and he was married and left behind four children.
JTA contributed to this report.