Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being directly responsible for a gas attack that killed dozens of people, including at least 20 children, earlier this week in Syria.
“The murderous chemical weapons attacks on citizens in Idlib province in Syria and on a local hospital were carried out on the direct order and planned by the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, using Syrian planes,” Lieberman told Yedioth Ahronoth in an interview published Thursday.
Asked about the possibility of Russian involvement in the attack, Lieberman said, “We don’t know…We do know this is a Syrian operation by Assad from A to Z.”
The U.S. and European Union have also blamed Assad for the attack, but the Syrian government has denied responsibility, saying it “did not and will not” use chemical weapons.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told reporters Thursday that Israel was the “main beneficiary” of the chemical attack, and that the al-Nusra Front—al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate—is to blame for the incident.
“The first air raid conducted by the Syrian army was at 11:30 a.m. on that day (April 4) and it attacked an arms depot belonging to al-Nusra Front that contained chemical weapons,” Muallem said.
President Donald Trump Wednesday accused Assad’s government of going “beyond a red line” by launching the gas attack.
A former Israeli chief rabbi and one of the world’s leading Holocaust scholars, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, told Israel’s Army Radio Thursday “what is happening in Syria is a holocaust.” Avner Shalev, head of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center, expressed “deep concern over the appalling evidence of renewed carnage in Syria.”
Shalev called on the international community “to act now in order to place to put a stop to the atrocities and avert further suffering.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, berated Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in a phone call Thursday, calling Lieberman’s blaming of the Assad regime “unacceptable” and “groundless” in the absence of an “unbiased investigation,” according to a statement released by Russia’s Kremlin.