All Three Armies Are Practicing War Scenarios
The leaders of Israel, Syria and Hizballah all issued statements this week uniformly declaring they were not planning a summer war.
Their armies told a different story. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources tracked six moves which served to further raise the war suspense:
1. Israel reservists in their biggest exercise in four years
The exercise took place in northern Israel close to its border with Lebanon directly opposite Hizballah's missile positions. Reserve units from the infantry, armored corps, artillery corps, special forces, Air Force and Navy practiced repelling a surprise cross-border attack by Hizballah for the seizure of Israeli locations (See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 430 of Jan. 22: Iranian-backed Hizballah Marks Out Patches of Northern Israel for Capture. )
The units also drilled tactics against intensive enemy barrages directed at command centers, troop concentrations, supply routes to the Northern Front and urban districts of Israeli cities.
Reservist units tested their ability to reach front lines under fire, throw invading Hizballah forces back into Lebanon and pursue them across the border for a counter-attack to wipe out Hizballah missile bases and fortified lines of defense.
The four-day exercise began Sunday, May 9, and ended Wednesday, May 12.
2. Hizballah cuts down border-crossing time
Hizballah responded to the Israeli exercise by fielding two brigades (See DNW 441 of April 16: Assad is Modernizing Hizballah as His Defensive Shield for Damascus) stationed in Syria alongside the Scud missiles they have just received. They practiced rapid crossings into Lebanon, the while firing those self-propelled missiles on "advancing Israeli forces."
Its commander claimed they had managed to shorten the time span for the crossing from two hours to one hour-20 minutes.
Syrian ruler Bashar Assad's declaration that he wants peace drew from Israeli President Shimon Peres the remark in Moscow that Assad must be the only ruler in the world who thinks giving Hizballah (Scud) missiles is a peace move.
(See separate article on Russian-Israeli relations in this issue).
3. Obama speeds smart bombs to Israel
In view of the incendiary tensions on Israel's borders with Lebanon and Syria, the Obama administration expedited the delivery of an assortment of smart bombs for the Israeli Air Force. These kinds of arms are particularly effective against the fortified structures and systems used by Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Syrian Army.
They fall into three categories, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington report:
A. Guided Bomb Unit 28 (GBU-28), called Deep Throat. These are 'bunker busters' weighing 2,268 tons.
B. Smaller GBU-39 bombs that weigh 113 kilograms apiece and are well suited to being carried by IAF F-15 jets. They can penetrate smaller field fortifications and 1.83-meter thick reinforced concrete, of which most Hizballah fortifications in Lebanon are built.
The United States will soon supply Israel with similar ordnance for its F-16 bombers.
C. Laser-Guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (LJDAM) for improving these smart bombs' accuracy and effectiveness. Developed jointly by the American Boeing and Israeli Elbit corporations, this system enables the bombs to be launched from a maximum distance of 28 kilometers and strike home in all weather conditions. In providing the LJDAMs, the US is taking into consideration that in the next war, Hizballah will have enough anti-aircraft weaponry to restrict Israeli aerial movement over Lebanon, and so the IAF needs an optional weapon for striking enemy targets from afar.
4. Turkish military in support of Syria
It transpired this week that Ankara left Turkish anti-aircraft missile batteries out in the field close to its border with Syria after they finished their joint military maneuver of April 27-29. Instead of being pulled back into their bases inside Turkey, these batteries are now deployed to counter over-flights of Turkish skies by Israeli warplanes heading to strike targets in Syria and Lebanon.
This is the first time Turkey, until recently Israel's closest military ally in the region, has acted to inhibit the IAF's freedom of action in the eastern Mediterranean.
5. Israel scatters its rear bases for extra security
Israel has put in place a new strategy for safeguarding its military rear facilities against missile and rocket attack by distributing essential equipment, war materials and equipment among small logistics facilities. Announced by the head of the IDF's Logistics Division Brig. Gen. Nissim Peretz on Wednesday, May 12, this key redeployment was scarcely reported, even though it would normally be seen as symptomatic of an approaching war situation.
He stressed that the relocation of these vital military facilities would ensure the IDF's ability to fight uninterrupted and supported by an undisturbed flow of essential supplies – even when under missile assault.
The officer also announced a special conference of top Israeli commanders to discuss ways and means of better securing these rear bases.
6. Hizballah suddenly starts building a massive wall in Lebanon
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources have just discovered Hizballah starting on a massive project, helped by Iranian military engineers, to build a huge wall, apparently designed as an anti-tank barrier. The work has begun at Rashiya al-Wadi, which is situated at the central Lebanon mountain chain's southern extremity as it tips into the Beqaa Valley on the Syrian border. The colossal scale of the project is indicated by endless convoys of trucks loaded with cement and iron heading out of Syria to the site, and the sudden dearth in the last few days of building materials and cement in Damascus.
7. A lone diplomatic initiative
The only diplomatic action anyone took this week to defuse the heightened war suspense between Israel, Syria and Lebanon was undertaken by Spanish foreign minister Miguel Moratinos: He shuttled between Jerusalem and Damascus bearing assurances from both sides that neither intends to start a war.
No-one was listening.