IDF Holds Exercise Simulating War With Syria

The IDF held a large-scale exercise Tuesday simulating the invasion of Syria as senior brass disagree on how to relate to the hostile neighbor.

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Ezra HaLevi,

The IDF held a large-scale exercise Tuesday simulating the invasion of Syria in the context of a war with the hostile Arab country to Israel’s north.

Infantry units, tank divisions and the Air Force took part in the exercise. It took place at the Shizafon IDF installation, in the southern Negev.

Asked about the exercise by Army Radio, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that the IDF was indeed preparing for the possibility of war with Syria, but said this does not mean that Israel would initiate such a war. "Our preparedness is not an indication of any decision by either us or Syrians to go to war - these are purely defensive measures," he said.

IDF Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said Syria will not attack Israel and that this upgrading of military and troop movements is “merely precautionary.” He said Syria “saw what happened during the Second Lebanon War and our deterrence became more effective.”

A similar IDF drill conducted last year was meant to simulate a Gaza invasion – which took place on a limited scale soon after when Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza terrorists.

This year, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi made reference to both Gaza and the northern front in his briefing before the IDF Officers Training School. "The IDF is preparing for an escalation on both the Palestinian and the northern fronts," he said. "The IDF's goal is to improve its readiness while simultaneously continuing to fight terror."

Syria Confirms: Planning For War
Syrian MP Muhammad Habash told Al-Jazeera Arabic world news satellite television network Tuesday that Syria is indeed actively preparing for war with Israel, and that Syria expects the war will start this summer. He claimed it was Israel’s government, however, that wants the war, in order to survive politically.

Officials Weigh in on Whether to Negotiate With Syria
Peretz said that he hopes that the upgrading of military preparedness on both sides will not preclude Syria and Israel engaging in negotiations.

IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi has also reportedly advocated secret negotiations with Syria.

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, however, strongly opposed talk of responding to Bashar Assad’s public overtures – saying they are aimed purely at alleviating pressure on Syria to curb its support for various terrorist groups.

Gaza Warnings
In his briefing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yadlin warned that Israel must prepare for the possibility that Katyusha rockets – with a 40 km (25 mile) range will be obtained and used by terror groups in Gaza.