Tensions Build Between Israel and Syria

Tensions between Israel and Syria have sharply increased in recent days, causing some to fear a possible outbreak of war.

Both Arab and Israeli military sources told ABC News that Syria has put its military on a defensive high alert. Damascus has also issued a partial call-up of its reserves.

Arab media reports quote unnamed Syrian sources as saying that Damascus fears an imminent conflict with the Jewish state.

According to some analysts, Syria fears that an Israeli attack might be sparked by Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese organization.

The organization has promised to avenge the death of Imad Mugniyeh, a leading Hezbollah figure who was assassinated in Damascus last February. Both Hezbollah and Syria have accused the Israelis of being behind the assassination.

Ever since, Israeli embassies and facilities both inside Israel and around the world have been placed on high alert for a possible revenge attack. Syria fears it will be targeted in the event of such an attack on Israel.

Israel's president, Shimon Peres, spoke to press Thursday during his tour of the city of Arad, and clarified that "we have no intention at all of attacking Syria — Israel is not looking to go to war, and I hear that Syria says the same."

"But," he added, "there are some sources who have interests in heating up the area."

This message was repeated by Israel's deputy prime minister, Haim Ramon. Speaking Thursday on Israeli Radio, he said, "the anxiety of the last few days is surprising and has no basis."

But Israeli newspapers were dominated by the latest scare, with some commentators suggesting Syria might already know that Hezbollah's attack is coming soon.

Israel has sent calming messages to Damascus through diplomatic back channels in an effort to reduce the tension.

Syria has been a key ally of Hezbollah and is accused of rearming the organization following its violent conflict with Israel during the summer of 2006.

Syria's policy in the region and in particular its perceived role in the current Lebanese political crisis has put it on a collision course with the United States and the administration of President George W. Bush.

Washington has initiated economic sanctions against Syria and accuses it of being linked to the so-called Axis of Evil due to its close links with Iran and military cooperation with North Korea. Washington also accuses the Syrian regime of involvement in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

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