Were Rebels Able to Poison Top Syrian Officials? Israel, rebels say yes; Syria says no By Mark Russell, Newser Staff Posted May 25, 2012 9:24 AM CDT 3 comments Comments A file picture dated 13 June 2000 shows Assef Shawkat, center, brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad, right, during the funeral of late president Hafez al-Assad in Damascus. (Getty Images) (Newser) – Syria is denying it, but Israeli officials say there's truth to the claim that Syrian rebels attempted to kill top government officials with poison last Saturday. According to Haaretz, the rebels were able to turn the bodyguard to Syria's national security chairman, and that bodyguard was able to poison a meal served to President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, the defense minister, interior minister, national secretary to the Baath Party, an aide to the vice president, and the security chairman. According to rumors, some of them died, but Haaretz reports that emergency medical treatment actually managed to save everyone's life. Syria, however, insists no such attempt took place, and somewhat oddly aired its denial on the Facebook page of a foreign ministry official (two mobile phone companies also sent out text-message denials), reports the New York Times. Most of those denials only served to convince many Syrians that something had actually happened. And if that's the case, it indicates the rebels are making strides, notes Haaretz. Says one Israeli official, "The opposition has the tools to reach the heads of Assad's regime, and in this case, it's been proven."