Amid loud reciprocal declarations that no Israel-Syrian war is impending, the two armies are very much present on both sides of the Golan and Mt. Hermon border and both their air forces on hair-trigger alert.
Israel has also massively fortified its defense lines on the Golan in time to beat the winter rains, which normally begin in the region in mid-October, and the snow season two months later.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources describe the line of fortifications, the largest Israel has ever constructed, as 70 kilometers long and consisting of concrete structures, tank obstacles and embrasures for missiles and artillery as well as ramps for tanks and armored personnel carriers.
This line is backed by large fortified military positions which have been perched on strategic crests for the past 34 years.
The main line of fortifications runs from Majdel Shams on Mt. Hermon, through northern Golan and up to the Hamat Gader intersection situated at the ruined Syrian village of Sukheita south of the Sea of Galileem where the Syrian-Israeli-Jordanian borders meet.
Its builders endeavored to make every inch absolutely impermeable to Syrian incursion, leaving the defenders on the hilltops free for the following combat missions in a potential flare-up of hostilities:
1. In the north, the IDF will be assigned with repulsing a Syrian drive to capture the 9,232 ft. tall Mt. Hermon, Majd el Shams and the other Golan Druze villages. The Syrians are expected to advance on two axes – one from the commando concentration at Qatana southwest of Damascus – they have been sighted drilling drops on mountainous terrain; the other will head west from Sa’sa at the northern end of Golan.
The fall of Hermon and neighboring Mt. Dov would rob Israel of its most effective electronic surveillance lookout point against Syria and could cause the IDF to lose control of the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The largest line of fortifications Israel has ever built
2. Israel forces will make a stand in the center of the Golan plateau, its soft belly, where the Israeli defense line starts north of Mas’adeh intersection and drops south to Avital intersection opposite Syrian Kuneitra. It is up to these contingents to halt any Syrian advance towards the Israeli settlement blocs on Golan, the Galilee towns and villages, and the sources of most of Israel’s water supply.
Here, the new Israeli defenses are especially dense, made up of a central line branching out to subsidiaries which defend the hills, the valleys and the intersections scattered through the area.
3. The southern section of the defense line, which winds along the Yarmuch River and its tributaries, is designed to block off a Syrian break through to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s only natural water reservoir. In the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Syrian troops managed to reach as far as the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
Although in recent weeks, Israel has repeatedly announced it is discontinuing military training on the Golan so as to ease military tensions with Syria, nonetheless, complete armored brigades continue to be transferred to this northern enclave for course after course of five-to-ten days each.
The tactics the units are drilling include seizing defense lines, throwing back storming Syrian armored forces, the liquidation of Syrian commandos dropped behind Israeli lines, and an armored breakthrough onto the Syrian side of the border, in order to outflank advancing Syrian forces and destroy them.
All these exercises – the last beginning two weeks ago when the Givati Brigade was moved north from the Gaza Strip – are taking place backed by flocks of Air Force helicopters as well as bomber fighters.
It is estimated in Israel that Assad, despite, or perhaps because of, the nasty blow Syria suffered when the Israeli Air Force’s Sept. 6 air strike proved his electronic early warning and radar systems susceptible to jamming, cannot hold back much longer from showing he has some teeth if he wants to survive in power.