Israeli intelligence says there is evidence that Syrian rebels poisoned several top officials of the Syrian government, including the brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad. Despite persistent rumors that the brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, and other top ministers were killed, Syrian officials have denied that any assassination attempt took place. However, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that their government has "reliable information" that Shawkat and other members of Assad's inner circle were indeed poisoned by a bodyguard during a meal, but that all received quick medical attention and survived.
Members of the opposition group Free Syrian Army began to make claims about the attack on Sunday, saying that they believed that several members of the regime had died as a result. As rumors continued to spread, the government began putting out statements from the minister claiming that they were fine and that the reports were baseless. But some of the ministers who were at the meeting where the poisoning took place have not been seen in public since. Two of the country's main mobile companies took the odd step of texting denials to all their subscribers, a "doth protest too much" move in the eyes of some Syrians.
According to Haaretz, the targets of the poisoning attack were Shawkat, who is head of Syrian intelligence, Defense Minister Daoud Rajha; Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar; Hassan Turkmani, an aide to the vice president; national security chief Hisham Bakhtiar; and Mohammed Said Bakhtian, national secretary of the Baath Party. If the reports are even partially true, it would send a major signal that rebel forces have infiltrated the highest levels of the Syrian government and are attempting 9with some success) to bring it down from the inside.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.