Israel says Assad's army growing beyond pre-civil war size
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday that the Syrian regime was building up its ground forces to beyond their pre-civil war size.
The Israeli minister's comments suggest that Assad's army has recovered from a critical manpower shortage earlier in the war.
"Across the way we see the Syrian military, which is not satisfied with just taking over all of Syrian territory but is expressly building a broad-based, new ground army that will return to its previous proportions and beyond," Lieberman told reporters during a tour of the Golan Heights, according to Reuters.
In the first year of the conflict the Syrian regime army was hit by major defections, with Assad acknowledging by 2015 that a "shortfall in human capacity" meant his army could not fight everywhere for fear of losing ground.
Russia intervened in the conflict in 2015 and turned the tide of the war for Assad, who has received the backing of Iran and allied Shia militia from across the region.
Hizballah has also fought alongside the regime since 2011.
Israel is closely monitoring the military capacity of Syria and has voiced concern Assad might defy a 44-year-old demilitarisation deal in the occupied Golan Heights.
Lieberman wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that Israel's tanks in the occupied Golan Heights were "our crushing strike force and will know how to defend the border in any eventuality".
Israel has sought to remain out of direct involvement in Syria's civil war, but it admits carrying out dozens of airstrikes there to stop what it says are deliveries of advanced weaponry to its Lebanese enemy Hizballah.
It has also pledged to prevent its arch foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and a series of recent strikes that have killed Iranians in Syria have been attributed to Israel.
Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab