Israel vs. Syria

By Germanm

Sep 6, 2007 4:51pm

ABC’s Simon McGregor-Wood blogs from Jerusalem: For the last six months there has been a confusing series of exchanges between Israel and Syria, with mounting pressure toward restarting peace talks on the one hand, and on the other hand, renewed military tension and the fear that war could break out by accident or as a result of a Syrian gamble. (At left, Israeli soldiers jump off a tank in the Golan Heights today.) Both sides have been reorganizing their military posture, with the Syrians’ buying new anti-tank weapons and reshaping their defenses, and the Israelis’ holding regular, large-scale exercises on the occupied Golan Heights in the shadow of last summer’s embarrassing failures against Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has sent calming messages to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad has sent often contradictory messages in return — calls for renewal of negotiations as well as veiled threats. This morning the Syrian government accused Israel of bombing unpopulated targets inside Syria. The Israelis are denying flying the alleged missions (according to one report), but they have done this sort of thing before. Often in connection to Palestinian attacks, for which Israel holds Syria at least partially responsible. This week there have been many Qassam rockets fired by militants in Gaza, coinciding with the start of the Israeli school year and it’s possible the Israelis would buzz the Syrians in response. But so far, no comment. Israeli defense analysts talking to ABC News today also raised the possibility that this incident, if confirmed, may have come during a routine patrol to which the Syrians, for some reason, took exception. Alternatively, they say, it’s possible the Israelis may have been trying to probe Syrian air defenses in light of recent intelligence that Syria has been upgrading its anti aircraft weapons with modern Russian technology. The consensus here is that neither side is interested in war, and the expectation is that both will try and lower tensions in coming days.

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