It's hard to know how much of the following French press report is real or accurate. (For instance they have the name of Israel's head of military intelligence wrong.) But if some smoke means a chance of some fire, then all this smoke from Damascus is deeply troubling.
Syria deploys thousands of rockets on Israel border: sourcesThe drivel about peace overtures from Syria being rejected by Israel doesn't mean the whole report is a nonsense (though much of AFP's reportage from this part of the world is badly distorted by its agenda-driven nature). News reports emanating from the Syrian government-controlled media constantly beat the Golan drum. For instance, a breathless report earlier this week announced that "the first conference of engineering education officials in the Arab world Tuesday called for implementing UN resolutions regarding the end of Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan..." Imagine, the engineering education industry, no less, demands that Syrian tanks and gun emplacements be restored to their rightful places perched above Tiberias, Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu and all the other Israeli towns and farms at which they took pot-shots for the nineteen years up to 1967 - with nary a murmer of complaint from anyone other than Israel.
Ron Bousso Fri Mar 9, 4:50 AM ET
JERUSALEM (AFP) -
Syria has positioned on its border with Israel thousands of medium and long-range rockets capable of striking major towns across northern Israel, military and government sources told AFP. This deployment, coupled with other recent reports of Syrian troop mobilisation, is seen in Israel as an indication that Damascus may be preparing for future "low intensity warfare," they said...
The Syrian army accelerated its deployment of medium and long-range rockets in the wake of the Lebanon war, during which the Hezbollah militia fired moe than 4,000 rockets against northern Israel.
"We have noticed that in recent months Syria has deployed hundreds, possibly thousands, of medium and long-range rockets along the border (with Israel)," one military source said. "Many of the rockets are hidden in underground chambers and in camouflaged silos, which make them very difficult to locate," the source said. Three of the sources were from the military and two from the government, and they all spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. They said Syria has built a system of fortified underground tunnels along its border with Israel.
Most of the rockets deployed are 220 millimetre, with a range of 70 kilometres (43 miles), and 302 millimetre rockets capable of striking targets at a distance of more than 100 kilometres (56 miles). The latter would be well within range of the main population centres in northern Israel such as Tiberias and Kiryat Shmona. These long-range rockets could also reach Israel's third largest city of Haifa and its industrial zone, which is home to several essential industries, including oil refineries and a deep-water port. It is also believed that Syria has deployed several FROG rocket launchers, with a a 550-kilogram (1,200-pound) warhead and 70-kilometre range, in areas between the border and the capital Damascus, 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.
According to the sources, such a massive deployment of well entrenched rockets poses "a real strategic threat" to Israel.
While Syria concentrates most of its long-range surface-to-surface missile arsenal in the north of the country, its decision to deploy rockets so close to the border may indicate that Syria is mulling an attack on Israel, experts say. "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad realised after the Lebanon war that Israel was not as strong as it seems and that it could be threatened by simple means rather than an advanced army," the director of the Begin-Saadat Centre for Strategic Studies, Ephraim Inbar, told AFP. Inbar, as well as the military sources, believe that "Assad could be preparing for low intensity war, a type of war of attrition with Israel, where Syria fires several rockets against Israel without provoking full-fledged war."
...Israel's military intelligence chief, Major General Amod Yadlin, told the government's annual intelligence assessment that while Syria was beefing up its military, war between the two neighbouring countries was unlikely in 2007. "Syria is continuing its military build-up and preparing for war," he told the cabinet. "The chances of a full-scale war initiated by Syria are low, but the chances of Syria reacting militarily against Israeli military moves are high."
Government sources told AFP that Syria was close to concluding a deal with Russia to procure thousands of advanced anti-tank missiles, of the sort Hezbollah used with great success against Israeli armour last year.
Tensions between Israel and Syria have peaked in recent months, with Israel rejecting peace overtures from Damascus and both sides toughening rhetoric. Damascus has repeatedly demanded the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed in 1981. It is now home to more than 15,000 settlers. Peace talks between Israel and Syria collapsed in 2000.