[ Friday, March 25, 2005 ]
USCFL Intelligence: Israeli General Sees War with Syria on the Horizion
(March 18, 2005) Israel's military is bracing for the increasing prospect of a war with Syria in a confrontation expected to include Iran and Hizbullah. The General Staff has discussed an assessment by the military's Northern Command of an emerging threat from Syria and Hizbullah over the next year. Military sources said Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, chief of Northern Command's warning was the latest by several senior officers who envision a major war with Syria by 2007. The sources said Iran and Syria have used Hizbullah to weaken Israel strategically and erode its morale. The sources said the General Staff has not discussed an Israeli strike on Iran. Hizbullah has been regarded as the leading supporter of the Palestinian war against Israel, which began in 2000. The Shi'ite insurgency group has also infiltrated the Israeli Arab community and recruited citizens for intelligence and other operations. So far, the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has resisted the military's urging for a major operation against Hizbullah to reduce its threat to the Jewish state. The sources said Sharon does not want a confrontation with Syria as he seeks to end the Palestinian war and withdraw from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. Hizbullah has been bracing for an Israeli air or ground assault on its positions in Lebanon. The sources said Hizbullah has built tunnels and hideouts filled with explosives in an effort to slow down any Israeli ground invasion. At the same time, Hizbullah has obtained medium-range rockets. They include 220 mm rockets from Syria, with a range of 75 kilometers, as well as the 240 mm Fajr-3, with a range of 43 kilometers. For his part, Gantz did not envision a conventional Syrian attack on Israel, rather a scenario whereby Iran or Damascus would use Hizbullah for a proxy war. The general said Hizbullah became a strategic threat even before Israel withdrew unilaterally from Lebanon in 2000. "Hizbullah was already a strategic threat [in 2000]," Gantz said. "The only thing that changed was that Hizbullah got closer and that because of [Syrian President Assad] Bashar, Hizbullah got stronger. It [Israel's withdrawal] was a social and political decision and not necessarily a strategic decision."
art [4:46 AM]