Getting hot, Syria, Israel
Syria moves more tank-artillery forces south to Israel border
November 3, 2008, 12:57 PM (GMT+02:00)
Syrian T-80 tank facing South Lebanon, northern Israel
Lebanese sources and eye witnesses report Syrian tanks, artillery and commando units have taken up battle positions in four villages around Hasbaya opposite Mt. Hermon and northern Israel.
According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, Syrian tanks and artillery units continued to move into their new positions Sunday and Monday, Nov. 2-3, so completing their deployment the full length of the Syrian-Lebanese border. Elements of the Syrian 10th, 12th and 14th Divisions and the 3rd Army - withdrawn last week from the 600-km long Syrian-Iraq border - are now poised opposite Israeli positions holding the disputed Shebaa Farms enclave on Mt. Hermon.
Military sources say that whereas opposite the northeastern Tripoli region, Syrian forces are strung out in small clusters of 2 to 3 tanks one or more kilometers apart, their tank units are massed tightly opposite Mt. Hermon and northern Israel.
There are other differences: Heavy Syrian armor is positioned well back from the front-line infantry and commando troops in the north, whereas tanks, artillery and special forces are deployed right up to the border opposite South Lebanon and Israel.
Western and Lebanese military observers relate Syria’s military movements to Damascus’ threats, growing more strident Sunday, of “painful punishment” for the US Oct. 26 raid in northern Syria unless Washington apologizes, clarifies its action and pays compensation.
These observers stress that Damascus has no real expectation of a US apology or clarification, because Syria knows as well as the US that the target was its own forward military base for terrorist strikes in Iraq.
While insisting that an innocent farm was attacked and the 8 people killed were all civilians, the Syrians are taking advantage of the Bush administration’s silence to argue that Damascus has the same right as Washington to carry out cross-border attacks against “terrorist targets” i.e. in Lebanon and Israel. Damascus is winding the tensions up to a pitch where some military action against a US Middle East target or ally in Lebanon or Israel is becoming hard to avoid.
Senior IDF officers and some Western military sources are perplexed by the Israeli government’s failure to pursue deterrent action against the Syrian tanks poised in battle array on its border. Instead, the outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert is busy trying to reviving indirect talks with Syria before he quits, while defense minister Ehud Barak and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni appear unconcerned.