Yaakov Katz, Jpost.com staff and Yaniv Berman , THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 2,
Due to the increase in tensions in the north as well as in the Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, The Jerusalem Post has learned, has decided to cancel a planned trip to Germany next week.
During the trip, officials said, Barak was scheduled to meet with German intelligence chiefs to discuss Iran's nuclear program as well as efforts in Berlin to mediate between Hizbullah and Israel regarding the two abducted IDF reservists - Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
Barak, who was to be accompanied by MOD IDr.-Gen. Pinhas Buchris, was also scheduled to meet with heads of parliamentary committees as well as pay a visit to the dock where Germany is building two Israeli submarines.
If Israel is attacked by Syria or Hizbullah the IDF's response will be "painful", Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel said Wednesday amid media reports that Syria was making maneuvers with its military forces along the Lebanese border and was calling up reserves ahead of a potential conflict with Israel.
"I do not see a reason for unordinary tension [along the border]," Harel said during a press conference in Tel Aviv. "Neither side has an interest in a military conflict. Anyone who wants to hurt Israel should remember that we are the strongest country in the region and the response will be painful."
Earlier Wednesday, Syria had denied a report according to which it has concentrated forces along the Lebanese border and summoned reserve forces in preparation of a possible Israeli assault against it.
"The report, which was published in [the London-based daily] Al-Quds al-Arabi is totally false," Col. (ret.) Ahmad Munir Muhammad, a member of the Syrian parliament's National Security Committee, told The Media Line.
"Syria is not concentrating forces and is not summoning its reserves. President [Bashar Al-Assad's] message is clear: we are for a just and comprehensive peace and for the implementation of the United Nations' resolutions," added Muhammad.
According to Muhammad, there are indications that Israel is preparing a military assault against Syria with American backing. The purpose behind such an attack, said Muhammad, would be to divert the pressure of public opinion from the "American crisis in Iraq and the crises within Israel." Muhammad also said there was no need for Syria to concentrate troops along the Lebanese border.
"The national Lebanese resistance movement [Hizbullah] has proven that it can thwart an Israeli attack on its own," he said.
Muhammad also said Syria might change its military strategy to using middle-range missiles. He said Syria would use them to protect its land, but would not initiate an attack on its own.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported early Wednesday that Damascus was preparing for a large-scale Israeli attack on Syria and Hizbullah. According to the report, the Syrian army has been maneuvering its forces and drafting some of its
reserve forces in preparation for such a contingency.
The paper claimed that Damascus has also raised the alert level along its borders, and has positioned three armored divisions, nine infantry brigades and special forces near its border with Lebanon's Bekaa valley, fearing an Israeli infiltration there. This, it stated, would be a strategic spot for Israeli ground forces to strike, as it is both a Hizbullah stronghold and places troops in close range of the Syrian capital.
Syria viewed recent comments by IDF officials as preparation of the groundwork to justify an Israeli assault, the report continued. It was not stated which remarks were being referred to.
Meanwhile, sources in Syria said the nation's interior ministry would this weekend announce the results of its investigation into the death of Hizbullah terror-chief Imad Mughniyeh. The report was likely to lay the blame for the assassination on Mossad as well as certain Arab sources.
The paper added that Hizbullah would refrain from exacting revenge on Israel for Mughniyeh's killing at this time, so as not to give it "an excuse" to attack.
In related news, the paper reported that leaders of Palestinian terror groups were employing additional cautionary measures following Mughniyeh's assassination, with one official telling the paper that "If Israel managed to get to Mughniyeh - leaders of Islamic Jihad, Hamas and others will be an easy target."
The Media Line News Agency contributed to this report
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