Israeli intelligence: Syria orders attack on border targets

Monday, October 27, 2003

TEL AVIV Syria has ordered Hizbullah to launch a major attack along the Israeli border, according to communications intercepts.

Israeli intelligence sources said they have monitored evidence of communications between Syria and Hizbullah that suggests the Iranian-backed Shi'ite movement has been directed to carry out a strike on Israeli positions along the border with Lebanon. The sources said the Hizbullah targets could be either civilian or military.

The Syrian directive was meant to respond to Israeli air attacks on Syria over the last month. In October, Israel F-16 multi-role fighters struck the Ein Saheb insurgency training camp near Damascus and caused heavy damage.

In August, Israeli F-16s buzzed the summer home of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Mediterranean port of Latakia, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Assad doesn't have an army for a conventional strike on Israel," an intelligence source said. "That is where Hizbullah comes in. Hizbullah can hurt Israel and provide Syria with the element of denial."

Israel has relayed an alert to forces in the Golan Heights and along the border with Lebanon. This has resulted in increased flights by unmanned air vehicles along the Lebanese border.

But the sources said Syrian forces along the northern Golan Heights did not appear to be preparing for anything other than routine winter deployment.

The sources said Syria regards Hizbullah as the leading Syrian-backed insurgency group as well as a military asset against Israel. For the last three months, the Assad regime has ordered Palestinian insurgency groups to maintain a low profile and refrain from issuing announcements from Damascus. But over the last two weeks Hamas was allowed to issue statements from the Syrian capital.

"We see that the terrorist activities continue to be directed by Syria and from Syrian territory," Maj. Gen. Benny Ganz, head of Northern Command, said.

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