A Qatari newspaper, Al Watan, reported Friday that Syria is making concrete preparations for war with Israel, saying that the Syrian government has removed the Government and State Archives from the Damascus area. According to the paper, this move indicates preparations for war.

Syrian parliament member Muhammad Habash confirmed on Al-Jazeera Arabic world news satellite TV last week that Syria is indeed engaged in active preparations for a war with Israel. The conflict, said the Syrian MP, is expected to break out during the summer months.

Officials close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reported Sunday that their efforts to begin negotiations with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have gone unanswered. They also said that Mr. Assad’s failure to reply signaled that his claims of wanting peace were not honest and were meant to improve his own status in the international community.

Last week, the head of Mossad, Israel’s international intelligence agency, Meir Dagan, warned that Syrian President Assad was putting up a smoke screen by claiming he wants to open peace talks with the Jewish State.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has also raised the issue numerous times. “The IDF is preparing for an escalation on both the Palestinian and the northern fronts,” he said bluntly during a speech to the IDF Officers Training School earlier in the year.

The IDF held a large-scale exercise ten days ago simulating a Syrian invasion to Israel’s north. Infantry units, tank divisions and the Air Force took part in the exercise, which 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 Syria to go to war - these are purely defensive measures," he said.