Saturday, March 10, 2007

11-Mar-07: Love Letters from Syria

As if there were a shortage of things to worry about, with Iran openly boasting of a soon-to-be-manifest nuclear capability and Hizbollah prancing about with enormous stocks of live weaponry and crowing about its self-proclaimed victory in this past summer's war on our northern border, the Syrian regime is grabbing some limelight.

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: sources
Ron Bousso Fri Mar 9, 4:50 AM ET
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.
The 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.


gharqad tree said...

I haven't been commenting much here lately - I even stopped reading for a little while. A kind of quiet despair is to blame for that. I'm slowly realising that a sizeable section of the western world simply resents Israel's existence, and has chosen to forget the reasons why Israel has to exist, why it has a right to exist, and why it therefore also has the right and the duty to defend itself and its citizens. A large part of the community that I live among would applaud the defeat of Israel (and whatever followed) by groups who oppose everything my community supposedly believes in, who firebomb internet cafes for their immorality and make death threats against beauty pageant competitors.

It is slowly dawning on me that they won't ever change their minds here, not until the front line is miles away rather than a continent away. Israel seems to have become the blank sheet upon which we can write whatever sins and slanders we want. After all, what is a pariah state, an outlaw state, if not one upon whose citizens almost daily murder attempts are considered so trivial as to go unreported by our media? You are already outside the normal protections offered by the international community to its member states. You are, de facto, already an outlaw state.

An example? It fills me with anger that Robert Fisk and the toilet rag he writes for will not issue a retraction, let alone an apology, for their uranium libel. A friend at the BBC argued that he has not technically affected the public perception of Israel by what he wrote, and has therefore done nothing legally wrong, (and given the hatred already felt for Israel, she was probably right, despite everything she said being Bullsh*t). I asked her, legal technicalities aside, what this failure to retract or apologise said about his moral integrity as a journalist and as a human being. She replied, "Legally I don't think he's done anything wrong". I gave up.

Another friend told me she'd had a great weekend, at a music concert in a local bar "to help the Palestinians and end the violence in the Middle East". I told her I was delighted that a gig in the East End of London had finally persuaded the Swords of Righteousness Brigades and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas to finally end their attacks on Israeli men women and children. She replied, "No, it's actually to help Palestinian schoolkids get to school without being shot at by Israel".

I don't know how a gig here will persuade the obviously bloodthirsty genocidal monsters of the IDF to stop opening fire on innocent children and using their blood to make bread, but fingers crossed, as they say.

It's a paradox really; despite the fact that, as a European and a private citizen, my engagement with this issue accomplishes nothing and makes no practical difference, on a moral level I know that it would be a luxury to accept the fact that no-one here seems to agree with me, wash my hands of the argument, and not read sites like this. It's not, after all, an abstract argument. Syrian missiles are not abstract concepts, and neither, soon enough, will Iranian nuclear weapons be.

But reading the facts you describe in these pages, the hatred and murder attempts you are constantly facing, makes me feel anger at best, and at worst a terrible despair. It's almost tempting to pretend nothing is happening, to forget that real human lives are at stake.

That's how hopeless it seems from this end of the world. G-d knows what kind of anger you must feel at yours.

DryBones said...


I'm writing to you about the Dry Bones cartoon blog.
Dry Bones is Israel's political comic strip, appearing in the Jerusalem Post and other papers since 1973. We're now online with a cartoon every day Monday thru Friday. Technorati ranks us at about 7,000. We won four first place awards in the last JIB (Jewish and Israeli Blog) Awards. (Best overall blog, Best new blog, Best humor blog, and Best Politics and Current Affairs blog).

We'd love to exchange links,
go so well together.

So let us know,
(for Dry Bones)