debkafile reports: Close Assad aide reiterates that Syria will respond to Israeli attack at a time and place of its choosing

Minister of Expatriates, Butheina Shabaan, who is generally regarded as President Bashar Assad’s personal mouthpiece, made this statement Tuesday, Sept 18. It was a replay of the one first issued by a junior official on Sept. 6, together with the initial accusation that Israeli warplanes had invaded Syrian air space. The pugnacious minister also dismissed the reports published on the event as fiction and a pack of lies. Despite its repetitiveness, debkafile‘s American and Israeli sources interpret Shabaan’s statement’s coming now as important because it appears to indicate that the Syrian president, after due consideration, has come down on the side of a military response some time soon.
Her words were also meant as a cold shower from Damascus for the self-satisfied remarks in Jerusalem. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday he has the greatest respect for President Assad and is willing to join him in a peace dialogue. President Shimon Peres then announced, somewhat prematurely: “The military nervousness with Syria has passed.”
According to debkafile‘s military sources, Damascus holds at least four proactive options for a response:
1. A sudden pinpoint attack on the Golan and attempt to seize hold of a small enclave or Israeli military position for several hours.
2. A multiple casualty terrorist attack on the Golan, toward which Syrian intelligence and armed forces have been training for several months.
3. Indirect action against an Israeli target – either through an incursion by one of the Lebanese-based Palestinian groups under Syria’s thumb for a massive shooting operation, or through attacks on Israeli or Jewish targets outside the Middle East by external Hizballah or Palestinian cells.
4. A Syrian strike against a strategic target inside Israel, similar to the Israeli attack which American sources report targeted an “agricultural” nuclear site in northern Syria in the first week of September. Our military sources do not believe Syria has the necessary capability for such action.
The timing of the Shabaan statement is suggestive because it came three days before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which falls this year on Friday night and Saturday, Sept. 21-22, the 34th anniversary of the October War.
Success would help the Assad regime quell the negative impact at home of the flood of media reports applauding Israel’s military achievement.

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