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Israel offers humanitarian aid to Syria

- - Sunday, March 4, 2012

JERUSALEM — Israel's foreign minister on Sunday offered to send humanitarian aid to Syria through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"The Jewish state cannot sit idly by while horrific acts are taking place in a neighboring country and people are losing all that is dear to them," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.

Known for his hard-line attitude toward Arabs and other opponents of Israel, Mr. Lieberman said that despite the absence of diplomatic ties with Syria, it is Israel's moral duty "to at least offer humanitarian aid and call on the world to put a stop to the massacre."

A Red Cross spokesman said in response that the group is evaluating the humanitarian situation in Syria and determining what supplies are needed.

Mr. Lieberman last month proposed in the Cabinet that Israel condemn the killing of civilians in Syria and call on President Bashar Assad to resign.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the proposal on the grounds that it would play into Mr. Assad's hands by permitting him to say that Israel is behind the uprising.

When the Syrian uprising began a year ago, Israeli leaders were uncertain how to react.

On the one hand, Mr. Assad is a dictator who had kept the border with Israel quiet. No one can predict what kind of regime would replace him.

On the other hand, he is a key ally of Iran who brought Tehran's influence to the Israel border.

Over the past few months, the sentiment among government leaders and the public in Israel has tilted toward an embattled opposition.