Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 8, 2006
Wearing chemical warfare suits and masks, the soldiers ran into the building
and started to evacuate those wounded in a non-conventional Syrian missile
The "attack" was a simulation, put on Tuesday for Defense Minister Amir
Peretz and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz at the Home Front
Command's training center on the Tzrifin military base near Rishon Lezion.
Following the exercise, Peretz turned to one of the soldiers and asked:
"When there is a real incident, do you feel you will know what to do? Are
you sure you won't go into shock?"
His concern is not baseless. Four months after the war in Lebanon - during
which 4,000 rockets slammed into the North - Military Intelligence is
predicting that Israel is on a collision course toward a new round with
Hizbullah and possibly even war with Syria.
Peretz's visit to the HFC's training base was not a coincidence, but rather
a desire to see first-hand how the IDF is preparing for the looming threats.
It was not by chance he warned of non-conventional and chemical threats when
speaking to reporters following the exercise. With Iran racing to obtain
nuclear weapons, Peretz also wanted to ensure that Israel would be ready to
deal with the aftermath of such an attack.
According to Military Intelligence's assessments, obtained exclusively by
The Jerusalem Post, Israel is headed toward at least two major military
conflicts in 2007 - one against the Hamas army being built up despite the
cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, and the other against Hizbullah, which is also
rebuilding its military wing and has begun receiving shipments of
long-range, Iranian-made missiles smuggled into Lebanon by Syria.
Senior officers who spoke with the Post this week referred to the
possibility of a renewed conflict with Hizbullah in the coming months. MI
does not believe that the cease-fire in Gaza will last more than a few weeks
and feels that the continued daily smuggling of high-grade explosives and
weaponry into Gaza from the Sinai will force Israel to deal with the
Palestinian terror factions.
THE IDF followed this week's events in Lebanon with extreme concern. The
Hizbullah protests in Beirut, defense officials warned, have the potential
to topple the US-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. If that
happens, these officials predicted, UNIFIL could be expelled from southern
Lebanon and Hizbullah would be able to return to its border outposts, just
like before the war.
Since the war ended with a UN-brokered cease-fire on August 14, Hizbullah
has been receiving weapon shipments - including anti-tank missiles and
long-range rockets - supplied by Damascus and transported into Lebanon
through the Syrian border late at night.
Hizbullah "nature reserves" - camouflaged underground systems of tunnels and
bunkers - are still operating in southern Lebanon, despite the beefed-up
presence of UNIFIL. These areas are designated as "closed military zones"
for UNIFIL and are used as training centers for Hizbullah and storehouses
for its weapons caches.
The Lebanese political crisis, MI believes, may create a "proxy war" between
Hizbullah and Saniora's government. MI saw this clash coming and predicted
that following Israel's war in Lebanon, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah would feel the need to show in one way or another that his
guerrilla group had survived the IDF offensive.
In addition to the protests, MI believes Hizbullah will also resume attacks
against Israel in the coming weeks. The group won't necessarily launch
Katyushas, but at least will fire anti-aircraft missiles at IAF aircraft
flying over Lebanon. This, MI believes, will not be condemned by the
international community, since countries like France, Germany and Italy -
members of UNIFIL - have repeatedly slammed Israel for not stopping the
More importantly, MI does not believe UNIFIL poses an obstacle to Hizbullah
and that it is only a matter of time before the group returns to its former
SYRIA HAS been directly contributing to the tension in Lebanon. According to
MI, Damascus is the leading suspect in the assassination of Pierre Gemayel
two weeks ago, possibly an attempt by President Bashar Assad to extract
revenge for Saniora's decision to back the establishment of an international
tribunal to try those responsible for the 2005 assassination of former
Lebanese president Rafik Hariri.
MI does not foresee a Syrian attack in the near future, although the outcome
of the war in Lebanon has created a new and dangerous reality on the Syrian
front. The Syrian military has been on high alert since the war ended, and
Assad has said on several occasions that military action is one way to
recover the Golan Heights.
Due to the slight risk of a war, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos
Yadlin has suggested to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
that he examine the possibility of "engaging" Syria in a dialogue. Unlike
Iran, Syria has previously held talks with Israel and has ties with the West
MI believes it would like to retain.
According to MI's assessment, if Israel offered to renew the dialogue, Assad
would accept. If Israel does not make any diplomatic overtures to Syria, as
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said it wouldn't, the chance of war will only
BY THE end of 2007, MI expects Iran to have mastered the necessary
technology to proceed independently with its nuclear program. By the end of
the decade, it predicts, Iran will have a nuclear bomb - unless it is
stopped before then.
As things look now, according to several high-ranking defense officials, the
US will not attack Iran's nuclear sites. In addition, the Baker-Hamilton
report that came out Wednesday and called on US President George W. Bush to
engage Iran in a dialogue could lead to Washington's turning a blind eye to
Teheran's nuclear program in exchange for help in stabilizing the situation
Even if sanctions were imposed on Iran, the assessment is that they will not
be effective. But other officials say that if the world stopped supplying
Iran with refined fuel, the regime would need to consider suspending its
enrichment of uranium.
For Israel, 2007 is the critical year. Unlike the US, which sees the point
of no return only when Iran has a nuclear bomb, Israel has been warning that
the point is actually when the Iranians master the technology.
At the moment, Israel is confronting Iran on two fronts - diplomatically and
militarily. While Israeli leaders are pushing the world to take action to
stop Iran's nuclear program, the IDF is also drawing up plans for the
possibility that Israel will be left with no choice but a preemptive strike.
THE CEASE-FIRE in Gaza will enter its third week on Sunday, despite IDF
predictions that it would not last more than a few days. The question now is
where does this lead? One option is to give in to Palestinian demands and
extend the cease-fire to the West Bank. The National Security Council is
currently drawing up a recommendation on the issue, with officials
predicting that if Gaza remains quiet, Olmert will be willing to begin
implementing the truce in the West Bank.
The other option is to observe the cease-fire in Gaza and wait for the
Palestinians to either return to firing Kassam rockets or establish a
national unity government, one that accepts the three conditions of the
Quartet - a cessation of terror, recognition of Israel's right to exist and
honoring previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
If the cease-fire falls apart, the IDF believes it will be headed toward a
major conflict in Gaza. Despite the cease-fire, the Palestinians are
smuggling high-grade explosives and advanced weaponry into the Strip.
Hamas has set up a 10,000-strong military, consisting of four brigades
corresponding to four sections of the Gaza Strip. This army is believed to
be armed with advanced anti-tank missiles, Grad-type Katyusha rockets and
anti-aircraft missiles, possibly shoulder-fired, Soviet-made SA-7s.
MI's assumption is that the cease-fire will last another few weeks at most.
The major problem is that unlike the cease-fire before the unilateral
disengagement, this time the Palestinians do not have an incentive to
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant and Shin Bet (Israel Security
Agency) chief Yuval Diskin have been calling for a massive operation in the
Gaza Strip for months, claiming that otherwise Gaza would turn into southern
Lebanon. The end of the cease-fire could see the beginning of that
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