The security and political cabinet, the body which authorizes Israel’s military actions, held a special session Wednesday, June 6, to review the security situation on the Syrian border, namely the Golan.
It took place the day after a large-scale military, air, armored and commando exercise was staged in southern Israel’s Negev desert, led by the outgoing defense minister Amir Peretz, the chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, and the high command down to brigade command ranks. The units practiced capturing a mock Syrian village converted into a military stronghold. These village-strongholds are strung out along a line facing Israeli Golan positions.
The cabinet created a forum of 11 ministers to assess the extent of the military threat posed by Damascus and study the Israel Defense Forces’ operational plans for meeting a major flare-up of hostilities.
Before and after the cabinet meeting, prime minister Ehud Olmert and most of the ministers in attendance sang the same tune. They denounced talk of Syrian army war preparations as unfounded, irresponsible prattle.
Olmert summed up the cabinet session by extending Israel’s hand in peace to Syria.
This was taken as a meaningless, unreal gesture, when every Israeli knows that the government and army are going full steam ahead with preparations for a conflict expected to erupt in the next couple of months.
Damascus responded in kind. A Syrian official said on condition of anonymity Thursday, June 7: “Our position is the same. We are ready to resume peace negotiations; we would like to take action for peace.” But the Syrian official said he doubted Israel's desire for peace, adding: “We don't have much hope of things changing.”
An eleven-point Syrian buildup
Rhetoric aside, DEBKA-Net-Weekly discloses eleven pertinent pieces of information
regarding the military situation on the Syrian side, that were submitted to the Israeli cabinet session by the Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the head of Military Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Amos Yadlin:
1. Syrian armored divisions have recently augmented their front-line deployment opposite Israel. Four divisions are now in place, three of them armored.
2. The concentration is in defensive array, but has been supplemented with elements for switching the divisions around to the offensive at an hour or two’s notice.
3. The intelligence chiefs made especial mention of commando raider units and paired teams mounted on motorcycles and trained to fire anti-tank rockets on the move.
4. They reported that Syrian commando units are drilled for the following scenario: A flare-up occurs, whereupon Israeli tanks seek the advantage by storming through Syrian lines. While they are engaged behind the Syrian front, Syrian commando units are dropped by helicopter inside Israel or steal through its lines. They advance west and south, their objectives being to capture the Israeli villages overlooking the Hulah Valley and the Sea of Galilee. The missile shooters mounted on motorbikes meanwhile zoom around the Israeli tanks and destroy them.
5. Thousands of new Metiss, Kornet and Khrizantema AT 15 anti-tank missiles recently purchased from Russia with Iranian funding have been integrated in Syria’s forward positions. This anti-tank array is deployed to the rear of the front line in order to trap and destroy the Israeli tanks which elude the motorbike rockets.
6. Syria has also armed its forward units on the Golan with short-range, heavy Zelzal 2 and 3 and Fajr 5 surface rockets of the type Hizballah fired at Haifa in the 2006 Lebanon War. They have been supplied by Iran.
Israel builds five new bridges to link Golan to Galilee
7. On the Golan and Mt. Hermon, Damascus has massed a dense array of air defense batteries made up of sophisticated systems recently acquired from Russia and paid for by Tehran. They include Pantsyr S 1 (codenamed in the West Grisom SA-19), and aim to down the Israeli helicopters providing cover for the infantry and tanks and targeting Syrian tank hunters.
8. Also from Russia, Syria has purchased an estimated 2,000 C-802 shore-to-sea rockets, which have been positioned on its Mediterranean coast and distributed to Hizballah.
9. The Syrian high command, Hizballah, the Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islami and other pro-Damascus Palestinian terrorist groups have coordinated their operational planning so that any conflagration will hem Israel in with enemies on three warfronts, the Golan, Lebanon and Gaza.
10. Israeli intelligence analysts estimate that by the end of July or early August at latest, the Syrian army will have its ordnance stocks ready to stand up to a full-scale war of six weeks’ duration.
11. They are convinced that Bashar Assad was ready to go to war at the end of May. He was deterred only by uncertainty about the scale of Israel’s response. Assad understands that Israel’s main objective will be to wipe out Syria’s economic, industrial and transport infrastructure. He would be willing to go to war if he could be sure that part of the infrastructure would survive. But total ruin is unacceptable.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources disclose that both countries are moving ahead with extensive preparations for war before the end of summer. Lt. Gen Ashkenazi said Tuesday, June 5: “The IDF is getting ready for a possible escalation on the Palestinian and Syrian fronts. That is our job.”
Israeli military strength for withstanding the first stage of a Syrian onslaught has been put in place on Golan and Galilee.
As a part of these preparations, five new bridges have just been built to connect Upper Galilee with the Golan. The engineers who designed them attest to their being strong enough to take tank traffic and withstand air and artillery bombardment.
The old rickety bridges were left in place as alternative transport links.