Some argued that without his rule, radical Islamists such as ISIL would take over Syria.
The Syrian army has warned Israel of “repercussions” after rockets struck a major military airbase outside Damascus.
Explosions were heard in the capital early on Friday and residents in the city’s southwest suburbs saw a large plume of smoke rising from the area.
Footage on social media showed flames leaping from parts of the Mazzeh military airport compound.
— Majd Fahd 🇸🇾 (@Syria_Protector) January 12, 2017
Syrian state television quoted the army as saying several rockets were fired from an area near Lake Tiberias in northern Israel just after midnight which landed in the compound of the airbase, used by President Bashar al-Assad’s elite Republican Guards.
“Syrian army command and armed forces warn Israel of the repercussions of the flagrant attack and stresses its continued fight against [this] terrorism and amputate the arms of the perpetrators,” the army command said in a statement.
The statement did not disclose if there were any casualties, but said the rockets caused a fire.
Earlier, state television said several major explosions hit the compound and ambulances were rushed to the area.
The airport, just a few kilometres from Assad’s presidential palace, had been a base used to fire rockets at former rebel-held areas in the suburbs of Damascus.
It was the third such Israeli strike into Syria recently, according to the Syrian government.
On December 7, the Syrian government reported that Israel fired surface-to-surface missiles that also struck near Mazzeh airport.
A week earlier, the Syrian news agency SANA said Israeli jets fired two missiles from Lebanese airspace towards the outskirts of Damascus, in the Sabboura area.
The Israeli military has declined to comment on those incidents, and there was no immediate comment on Friday’s reported attack.
But Israel is widely believed to have carried out a number of air strikes in Syria in the past few years that have targeted advanced weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles, as well as positions of the Lebanese Hezbollah group in Syria.
In November, the Syrian army said Israeli jets fired two missiles on an area west of the capital, close to the Damascus Beirut-highway, in an attack mounted from Lebanese air space.
Lawrence Korb, a former US assistant secretary of defence, told Al Jazeera that while the Syrian army has warned of repercussions it is unlikely to materialise into direct action.
“The last thing Syria wants to do is bring Israel into this war that the Assad government is waging against the moderate opposition and other armed groups,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the Israelis are sending a message that they don’t want Hezbollah to have weapons that they can use against Israel.”
Israeli defence officials have voiced concern that Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, in which it has played a significant role and recently helped the Syrian army to regain the eastern sector of the city of Aleppo, has strengthened it.
Rebels have said Hezbollah’s major arms supply route into Damascus from the Lebanese border has been targeted on several occasions in recent years by air strikes. This has included strikes on warehouses and convoys of weapons.
Israel has been largely unscathed by the Syrian civil war, with only sporadic incidents of stray shells falling on its territory.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently reiterated his government’s position to not get involved in the war.