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Israeli Air Force chief warns a multi-front war could be imminent

Special to WorldTribune.com

TEL AVIV — Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel issued one of the
starkest warnings of an imminent war that could include Hizbullah and Syria.
In an address to a combat air conference, Eshel said Israel, already engaged in a shooting war with Syria, faces a range of
low- and high-intensity threats from virtually every front.

Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel.

Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel.

“It’s not as if we can say we have two weeks go prepare [for war],”
Eshel said. “I am not sure we have two weeks to prepare.”

In an address on May 22 to the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and
Space Strategic Studies, Eshel said the next war with Hizbullah in Lebanon
would exhaust the air force’s capabilities. He warned that the next war
would include missile strikes on Israel’s cities, which would require a
strategy to end fighting quickly.

“We have to be prepared to fight on three fronts simultaneously,” Eshel
said. “We have to know to leap from one front to another.”

The address marked the latest in a series of high-level military
warnings of an imminent war with Hizbullah or Syria. On May 21, Chief of
Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said Israel would not tolerate the nearly daily
fire from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

“The Middle East is undergoing a process of chronic, long-term
instability,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the same conference. “In
the final analysis, this chronic instability could generate new and also
surprising threats. And those who seek peace must prepare for war.”

Eshel cited the prospect that the war in Syria could spread to Israel.
He said the military must be ready to fight within hours in response to
strategic developments.

“Tomorrow, if Syria collapses, we could find ourselves in this whirlpool
extremely quickly,” Eshel said. “It doesn’t mean that we will respond, but
we have to be ready. It’s not enough that the system is ready. We also need
plans.”

Eshel said Syria has undergone military modernization with advanced
platforms from Russia. He cited Assad’s procurement of several air defense
systems, including the S-300PMU2.

“From the small budget that Assad has, he has spent billions in the past
few years to buy the best systems that the Russians can produce — the
SA-22, SA-17, SA-24, the S-300 which is on it’s way,” Eshel said.

Eshel warned that Israel’s adversaries were working on counter-measures
to Israel’s technological superiority. He said he was concerned over the
military’s reliance on technology to win wars.

The air force chief said Israel has not been tested in a real war for
nearly 40 years. He said the wars against Hamas and Hizbullah since 2006
fell far short of a conflict with conventional militaries.

“There are no planned wars,” Eshel said. “We have to be extremely
flexible with a highly robust toolbox that could cope with surprises and
failures.”

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