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Preparing for War?

June 12, 2007
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Syrian Preparations

In April, Syrian President Bashar Assad asserted that Syria is ready for a war with Israel. “Syria grows stronger every day,” Assad told the Arabic Dar Al-Hayat daily, adding that Israel is a “bitter enemy.” Indeed, this is not just rhetoric.

Syria has stationed thousands of missiles along the Israeli border. These rockets are camouflaged or hidden underground and can strike at targets over a large portion of northern Israel, from the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) to Haifa. The Christian Broadcasting Network has detailed Syria’s preparations for war. Missile expert Uzi Rubin described one installation featuring Syrian missile launchers housed in more than 30 huge concrete bunkers surrounding an operations command center. “They learned the trick that even shorter-range missiles that are fired in salvos from multiple rocket launchers are very effective against Israel’s civilian populations,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has publicly stated that Israel has no intention of attacking Syria. It is his opinion that Syria will not attack Israel either, but is only preparing herself defensively. Others in the Israeli political spectrum diametrically oppose this stance. MK (member of Knesset/Parliament) Israel Katz of the Likud party recently said to Olmert in a heated interaction on the subject, “You are mistaken to think that the Syrians are increasing their strength for self-defense. The Syrians are planning a terror attack in the Golan Heights in the summer and are building fortifications to prevent Israel from defending itself when the attack comes. You should be warning the Syrian president, not reassuring him.”

While the official word from the prime minister’s office is that Israel has no intention of going to war with Syria, we see an increase in preparation for war in Israel.

Israeli Preparations

On March 20, the Home Front Command held a nationwide drill simulating terror attacks in different parts of the country. A 90-second air-raid siren was sounded in southern and central Israel for the first time in such a drill. Even though I knew a drill was happening, as it had been well publicized, as the undulating siren shrieked loudly, I was transported back in time to the Gulf War. My pulse started racing, and I recalled the other times I had heard this siren, when we had to quickly don gas masks and enter sealed rooms. During the drill, several scenarios were played out, including a missile hitting a building in Netanya, causing a three-story building to collapse; a missile landing at the Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv, causing a large number of casualties; and a mega terror attack with a barrage of rockets in southern Israel, causing many injuries.

Israel announced its intention to build several underground hospitals in cities located near the border with Lebanon and close to the Gaza Strip. These hospitals will be able to withstand direct hits from rockets and to function in the event of a chemical or biological attack. Emergency rooms and intensive care units will be built beneath existing hospitals in Nahariya, Haifa, Nazareth, and Tiberias in the north and in Ashkelon in the south.

Israel also seems interested in sending a message to Syria and others in the region that she is not weak. The Second Lebanon War, which virtually ended in a draw, sent the message to the Muslim world that Israel is weak. They ask, “If Hizbullah, a militia group, could withstand the Israeli army, then what could a united Arab force accomplish?” Many Israelis also question why they didn’t decisively win the conflict with Hizbullah.

The new Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, seems determined to insure that Israel is ready and that everyone in the region knows it. He has initiated a series of training sessions that involve both regular and reserve units. The training is preparing the Israeli armed forces to respond to any threat, quickly and efficiently. All branches of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Air Force are cooperating to ensure that all will work well together in the event of war. In recent days, thousands of Nahal Brigade soldiers have trained extensively on the Golan Heights, right under the noses of the Syrians. The training program involved armored forces, engineering, logistics, and airborne forces. Special attention is being given to supplying the troops, as this was a weakness in the Second Lebanon War.

These training exercises are a clear message to Syria and others in the region—Israel will be ready for any attack by Syrian forces into the Golan. No one should make the mistake of thinking that Israel is weak. At Bridges for Peace, we are also preparing for crisis and war. Please see our article on page 3 to see how you can help.

By Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO

Photo Credit: Photo by Isranet

Photo Credit: Photo by Isranet

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