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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hundreds of Syrian missiles poised for possible first strike against Israel

TEL AVIV Despite appeals by United States, Syria has maintained its forward ballistic missile positions near Israel.

Israeli military sources said the Syrian military has positioned its Scud C and Scud D ballistic missile batteries in southern Syria. The sources said the missile batteries have maintained full combat readiness and could be launched at any time.

The sources said the Syrian missiles, including the SS-21, could reach virtually any part of the Jewish state.

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On July 24, Israeli military intelligence briefed Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on Syrian military capabilities. Intelligence officers said the high readiness of Syrian missile batteries suggest that Damascus was preparing a first strike.

"We have tried to reach an arrangement where each side takes measures to ease tensions," a military source said. "The Syrians have not responded."

[On Thursday, at least 15 Syrians soldiers were killed and another 50 injured in a huge blast in a base outside the northern city of Aleppo. A Syrian source said the explosion took place in an armory used for military exercises. Syrian television said authorities have ruled out an insurgency strike.]

"The Syrians are limiting their preparations to ballistic missiles, air defense and commando operations," the source said. "Their first move would be an attack on our cities rather than a tank invasion of the Golan."

The sources said Syria has also brought military personnel in plainclothes to help re-populate villages in the Golan Heights near the demilitarized zone with Israel. They said this could indicate that Syria was adopting the Hizbullah model of establishing a civilian shield from which to attack Israel.

"Israel wants peace, but we must be prepared," Olmert said. "We must not allow ourselves to be taken by surprise."

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