Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Israel fears Syria war sparked by 'misunderstanding'


Olmert is such an embarrassment.

Olmert instructs forces to limit actions near border for fear of sending wrong signals
Posted: August 15, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein
© 2007

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (
TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday directed Israel's military against taking actions on the country's border with Syria that could be misinterpreted by Damascus as signaling the start of a major confrontation.

Olmert is said to be concerned a war could break out due to Syrian misunderstandings of Israel's intentions. He has been holding closed-door meetings of his security cabinet – composed of the country's top ministers – deemed "very sensitive" to plan for the possibility of war with Syria.

"Israel is not interested in war with Syria," said Olmert yesterday touring military installations at the north near Syria. "But we are preparing for any possibility."

Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin was quoted as telling Olmert Syria is not inclined towards initiating a war, "but we are still left with the miscalculation scenario."

(Story continues below)

Syria's vice president, Farouq al-Shara , said Damascus has no intention of waging war against Israel to regain the Golan Heights, but he accused the Jewish state of planning to launch a confrontation.

The Heights is strategic mountainous territory looking down on Israeli population centers twice used by Syria to launch ground invasions into the Jewish state.

"Israel knows we don't want war. We should always be ready to respond to Israeli aggression, but Syria will not start a war," Shara said at a lecture in Damascus.

Shara accused Israel of wanting "any excuse to launch a war."

According to Israeli security officials, Olmert's cabinet the past few weeks were briefed by the IDF military intelligence unit on recent Syrian military movements and Damascus' acquisition of missiles and rockets capable of hitting civilian population centers, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The ministers were told Syria recently stepped up the pace of its own rocket production and moved some rockets close to the Israeli border.

The ministers were briefed on possible war scenarios, Israeli military options for countering any Syrian attack and the readiness of Israel's home front, including bomb shelters and anti-missile systems, security sources said.

WND reported last week that with the exception of the north, the Jewish state's home front, Israelis – especially in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – are unprepared for the event of war, with only enough existing bomb shelters for 70 to 80 percent of the area's residents.

Security officials told the ministers Syria is preparing for war with the Jewish state but that its preparations were seen as defensive in nature. They said they were concerned Syria might miscalculate Israel's intentions and launch a war based on faulty intelligence.

Israel: Syrian war preparations serious

Israeli security officials say Syria boosted its military near the Syrian side of the Golan Heights with strengthened forces after carrying out increased training the past few months.

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 missiles 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 security officials said any conflict with Syria could degenerate into a larger war involving Hezbollah along Israel's northern border and Palestinian terror groups launching attacks from Gaza in the south and the West Bank toward the center of Israel.

The officials noted Syria stepped up the pace of weapons, including rockets, being shipped from the Syrian border to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

The security officials said the greatest threats 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 Hezbollah one year ago. The missiles were passed to Syria by Iran, Israeli security officials told WND.

Baath official: Syria prepping for war

In a recent WND interview, a top official from Bashar Assad's Baath party warned if Israel doesn't vacate the strategic Golan Heights by August or September, Syrian groups might launch guerrilla attacks against Jewish communities there that could lead to a larger confrontation with Israel.

"More and more of our units have undergone intensive trainings starting at 6 a.m. and finishing late into the evening. If the need arises, we are ready for a war," said the official.

The Baath official warned that in the opening salvo of any conflict, Syria has the capabilities of firing "hundreds" of missiles at Tel Aviv.

Hezbollah: 'Surprises' in store if Israel attacks

Israeli security officials are concerned any confrontation with Syria would also involve the opening of other fronts against the Jewish state, including attacks launched by Palestinians terror groups from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and rocket firings by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

Addressing a "victory rally" in Lebanon yesterday marking the one-year anniversary of the second Lebanon war, Hezbollah chieftain Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah warned if conflict broke out his organization would not "rest on its laurels."

"If you the Zionists are thinking of attacking Lebanon ... I promise great surprises that could alter the fate of the war and the region, God willing," he said.

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