Officials: Troops at Israeli border, could launch surprise attack

Posted: June 7, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein

© 2007

Syrian President Bashar Assad

TEL AVIV – Syria, aided by Iran, has deployed a strengthened army along Israel’s northern border and is prepared to launch a surprise war against the Jewish state, according to senior Israeli security officials.

The development comes as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday told the Knesset he is ready for direct negotiations with Syria aimed at an Israeli retreat from the Golan Heights, strategic mountainous territory that looks down on Israeli population centers twice used by Damascus to attack the Jewish state.

With Israelis this week commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War – when neighbors Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked the Jewish state – Israeli security officials told WND Syria has prepared for a confrontation and is capable of launching an immediate war.

The officials say the Syrian army is deployed along the Syrian side of the Golan Heights with strengthened forces after carrying out the past few weeks stepped-up training of troops. The officials noted the open movement of Syrian Scud missiles near the border with Israel and said Syria recently increased production of rockets and acquired missiles capable of hitting central Israeli population centers.

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The Syrian army has improved its fortifications, according to the Israeli security officials, and has received modern, Russian-made anti-tank missiles similar to the ones that devastated Israeli tanks during the last Lebanon war, causing the highest number of Israeli troop casualties during the 34 days of military confrontations. Syria also received from Russia advanced anti-aircraft missiles.

The officials noted Syria stepped up the pace of weapons, including rockets, being shipped from the Syrian border to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Just yesterday, a truckload of weaponry meant for Hezbollah was confiscated by the Lebanese army.

Yossi Baidatz, chief of military intelligence for the Israel Defense Forces, said the Syrian-backed Hezbollah is rebuilding its forces in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border in areas where international forces are deployed with the specific charge of preventing the Lebanese militia’s rearming.

The security officials said the greatest threat Syria poses to the Jewish state are the country’s missiles and rockets. They noted Syria recently test-fired two Scud-D surface-to-surface missiles, which have a range of about 250 miles, covering most Israeli territory. The officials said the Syrian missile test was coordinated with Iran and is believed to have been successful. It is not known what type of warhead the missiles had.

In addition to longer-range Scuds, Syria is in possession of shorter-range missiles such as 220 millimeter and 305 millimeter rockets, some of which have been passed on to Hezbollah.

Israel also has information Syria recently acquired and deployed Chinese-made C-802 missiles, which were successfully used against the Israeli navy during Israel’s war against the Lebanese Hezbollah militia last July and August. The missiles were passed to Syria by Iran, Israeli security officials told WND.

Israeli security officials said Syria is preparing for a summer war. But they said there was an argument within the Israeli intelligence community whether the military build-up is for an attack or is meant by Syria to pressure Israel into vacating the Golan Heights. Some officials said Syria estimates the U.S. or Israel will attack Iran, and Syria will be drawn into a larger military confrontation by opening up a front against northern Israel. Also, the officials said, Syria may believe Israel will attack first and its preparations are defensive in nature.

The Israeli army is not taking any chances. The Israel Defense Forces Tuesday carried out a mock attack on a “Syrian” village during a major exercise in the Negev. The Israeli soldiers besieged and occupied the village, designed to be similar to towns on the Syrian side of the Golan. Similar war exercises were carried out in Israel the past few months, including a mock attack on Damascus.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has multiple times told his state-run media the past few months Damascus is preparing for war. He warned Israel to evacuate the Golan Heights.

This past weekend, Assad called for “better cooperation” between Damascus and Tehran in “the confrontation with the Zionist regime and the USA,” according to a report published Sunday by Iran’s official state news agency, IRNA.

Yesterday, an official from Assad’s Baath party warned in a WND interview if Israel doesn’t vacate the Golan, residents in the strategic territory would launch “resistance operations” against Israeli communities.

Meanwhile, Olmert yesterday told the Israeli Knesset he is willing to hold “peace talks” with Syria without any preconditions. At the same Knesset hearing, Israel’s security cabinet decided to establish a ministerial committee to discuss the security threat posed by Syria. The committee, led by Olmert, is made up largely of the same war lawmakers who helped shape Israel’s war against Hezbollah last summer. Those lawmakers were slammed in a recent government war probe for multiple failures during the war.

Olmert – faced with devastatingly low poll numbers and calls from the public and senior officials to resign – reportedly directed staffers at Israel’s Foreign Ministry to prepare for the possibility of talks with Syria.

Some analysts here have speculated in the Israeli media Olmert’s ratings could rise if he reached out to his leftist base and conducted negotiations with the Palestinians or Syria.

According to the Israeli media, Olmert tapped third parties to approach Syria to feel out whether Damascus is seriously interested in negotiations.

Syria, which signed a military alliance with Iran, openly hosts Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders. The U.S. accuses Syria of fueling and aiding the insurgency in Iraq. Israel says Syria has been allowing large quantities of weapons to be transported from its borders to Hezbollah. Syria has been widely blamed for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Syria is accused by Israel and pro-Democratic Lebanese politicians of fueling instability in Lebanon the past few weeks by backing Fatah al-Islam, a group claiming connections to al-Qaida that has been battling the Lebanese Army since May 20, killing some 107 people, including 47 soldiers and 60 terrorists.

The clashes erupted just before the U.N. was set to call for the establishment of an international tribunal to try the killers of Hariri. Syria has been widely blamed for the assassination and for a string of subsequent attacks that have rocked Lebanon.

About Mary

I have been a believer since 1981. Everything else before that is relatively meaningless. My heart has, from day 1, always been toward the subject of bible prophecy and I have seen the Lord do amazing things in my life through simply studying the Word and applying it to my life. I am a wife, grandmother and work full time in ministry. Life is full, and full of learning curves and seasons.
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