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Monday, May 17, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel's Deputy P.M. Ya'alon: 'We are already in a military confrontation with Iran'

TEL AVIV — Despite declarations of peace, Israel is actively preparing for a regional war over the next few months.


Hizbullah was said to have established an estimated 160 outposts and bunkers in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel, Middle East Newsline reported. Military sources said Hizbullah was expected to receive significant support from the U.S.-equipped Lebanese Army, which has deployed air defense systems as well as 15,000 soldiers in the south.

"There is no doubt, looking at the overall situation, that we are already in a military confrontation with Iran," Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said. "Iran is the main motivator of those attacking us."

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The sources said the military has been working on the assumption that within hours of hostilities Israel would be struck by missile and rocket salvos from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. They said both Hamas and Hizbullah were amassing huge arsenals designed to strike Israeli cities, military bases and critical facilities.

All services of the military are training and preparing for the outbreak of hostilities that could turn into a multi-front war against Israel. The sources said the assessment was that Iran and Syria would employ Hamas or Hizbullah in the opening stage of what could rapidly become a wider war that would include massive missile attacks.

"Hizbullah is expanding its arsenal and improving rocket accuracy," Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, a leading military planner, said.

In the 2006 war, Hizbullah missiles and rockets were said to have struck five percent of their targets in Israel. The Hizbullah ratio was expected to increase in any future war.

"In the next war, there will probably be a 95 percent target hit," Christopher King, director of force protection at the U.S. company Raytheon, said.

As a result, the military has expanded its exercise schedule in 2010 for the Army, Navy and Air Force. The sources said a key goal was to significantly enhance air assault operations that would combine Army and Air Force assets.

"The idea is for rapid response, deployment and retaliation," a senior military source said. "Israel cannot afford to spend weeks fighting a rocket war."

The sources said the military has increased efforts to protect Israeli cities from missile and rocket attacks to ensure the rapid mobilization of the reserves. They said the military was pressing for additional missile and rocket defense assets, particularly the Iron Dome short-range interception system.

"Hizbullah's dream is to maintain an army of at least 40,000 men," Israeli military analyst Alex Fishman said. "Today it has less than half of that, and the increase it aspires for requires a compromise on manpower quality."

The Israeli military has been dispersing its logistics and weapons to prevent their destruction in an Iranian or Syrian missile attack. Officials said Iran and Syria have intensified efforts to identify key Israeli military facilities.

"Over the last two years, the Israel Defense Forces has been performing wide-scale efforts to examine the best way to protect its military equipment, including ammunitions, weapons, fuel and any other equipment meant to serve the army during war," Brig. Gen. Nissim Peretz, head of the army's logistics division, said.

The military has determined that Iran and Syria would try to avoid an open confrontation with Israel. Instead, the sources asserted that both countries would use Hamas, Hizbullah and other proxies to launch a missile war that would include the Scud-class ballistic missiles.

"I call the summer of 2010 the tipping point for the Middle East," [Ret.] U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely said. "This could change the whole chessboard over there."

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