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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Israel Raises Prospect of War in 2007

TEL AVIV [MENL] -- For the first time in more than a decade, Israel's military has raised the prospect of a Middle East war

Military sources said the Intelligence Corps has warned of the possibility of war in 2007. The sources said the corps, in its annual intelligence assessment, has notified the General Staff that Syria represented the greatest danger of war over the next year.

"The main message was that the chance of war with Syria in 2007 was greater than during 2006," a source said. "This does not mean that it will happen. It means that there is a reasonable change of it taking place."

The annual assessment relayed to the General Staff was expected to be revised over the next few months. The Cabinet would receive the annual assessment toward the end of 2006.

The sources said military intelligence has concluded that Syria was encouraged by Hizbullah's performance against Israel during the Shi'ite militia's 34-day war in July and August 2006. They said Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has repeatedly warned of a Middle East conflict, believes that Damascus could seriously harm Israel in any war.

"Assad believes that he could win back the Golan through war," the source said. "What he envisions is a war in which Israel would suffer heavy casualties and then be prepared to give the Golan for virtually nothing."

The sources said the General Staff has ordered military intelligence to update assessments ahead of discussions of the five-year procurement and development program. The program, meant to be approved in June, has been revised in wake of the Hizbullah war.

Military intelligence has also been tasked to present a list of targets in any war with Syria. The sources said the Israel Air Force would receive military as well as infrastructure targets meant to paralyze Syria during the first week of the war.

Israel expects Assad to use Syrian nonconventional weapons in any war with the Jewish state. The sources said Damascus has accumulated an arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles tipped with chemical warheads.

"Assad's declarations must be taken seriously," Amos Gilad, director of the Defense Ministry's political-military bureau, said. "It is necessary to carefully study such threatening declarations. In the long term, Assad's declarations are very important, but for the time being they change nothing. It is not a concrete threat."
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