Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 21, 2006
Warning that Israel may face a "Syrian intifada," a high-ranking officer in Northern Command has told The Jerusalem Post that villages recently built by Syria along the border are planned to be used as "death traps" for IDF troops in Hizbullah-inspired attacks.
Since this summer's war in Lebanon, Syria, the officer revealed, has invested large amounts of money in replicating Hizbullah military tactics, particularly in establishing additional commando units and fortifying its short- and long-range missile array.
The idea is to draw Israel into an asymmetric war, the officer said, like the warfare the IDF encounters in combat against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as against Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Over the past two years, Syria has built a number of villages along the border with Israel, some inhabited and some not. At first, the IDF was not sure of their purpose. But now, following the war, the officer said, it was understood.
"Syria drew motivation from Hizbullah's surprise success this summer," the high-ranking officer said. "They now want to copy that type of guerrilla warfare."
While for years it was assumed that Israel had a major edge against Syria's military with regard to a conventional war - tank versus tank, jet versus jet - in an urban setting, the Syrian military would be able, the officer said, to wreak havoc against IDF infantry and armored units like Hizbullah did.
According to the officer, Syria has drawn three major lessons from the war and has begun to implement them. The first is that rockets - 4,000 struck northern Israel during the 33-days of fighting - can paralyze the home front. The second is that antitank missiles can penetrate the Merkava tank and force infantry units to abandon armored personnel carriers and trek into enemy territory by foot. And the third is that in villages and cities the Israeli Air Force's abilities are limited and IDF ground forces can be defeated.
During the war, the IDF fell into several deadly ambushes in southern Lebanese villages; one in Bint Jbail killed eight soldiers from Battalion 51 of the Golani Brigade.
The Syrian military, the officer said, was conducting urban warfare exercises in preparation for the possibility of a war with Israel. The IDF has also dramatically increased its training regiments and has, at all times, between two-to-three brigades training in the Golan Heights.
Lacking clear intelligence regarding Syrian intelligence, the officer said that the Northern Command's "working assumption" was that there was a possibility of war and there was a need to prepare accordingly.
While defense officials have crisscrossed in recent weeks concerning the sincerity of Syrian President Bashar Assad's offer of peace, the top officer said that, according to "all the signs," Syria was preparing for war with Israel. The Syrian military has beefed-up forces along the Golan Heights and Israel has done the same. In the Hermon, for instance, the IDF has doubled the number of troops.
"The feeling is unfortunately that another round is needed before we will be able to engage in a dialogue or peace talks with Syria," the officer said. "It is like with the Egyptians. The war in 1973 was what made it partially possible for [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat to come to Israel."
Syria, the officer said, has since the war ended, transferred truckloads of weapons and missiles to Hizbullah. Due to the convoys, Hizbullah, he said, was almost back at its full strength where it was before the war with Israel.
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