Exclusive: Another Syrian armored division masses on Israeli-Lebanese borders
April 14, 2008, 7:52 PM (GMT+02:00)
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Damascus has deployed the 10th armored corps at the Massaneh crossing of Mount Hermon. It links up with the northwestern positions the 14th division took up last month on the Syrian-Israeli border which cuts through the Hermon range.
Syrian troops are now strung along a continuous crescent-shaped line from the central Lebanese mountains through Mt Dov on the western slopes of Mt. Hermon and up to southeastern Lebanon. This deployment, commanding Syria’s Israeli and Lebanese borders, is under the command of the president’s brother, Maher Assad.
The 10th armored corps was moved forward straight after Syria’s snap civil defense exercise which crashed after three hours last Thursday, April 10. The exercise was ordered without notice by president Bashar Assad on the last day of Israel’s five-day homeland defense drill.
DEBKAfile’s military sources are criticizing Israel officials for attributing Syria’s latest military movements to domestic troubles inside the Syrian leadership. They say this is throwing sand in the public’s eyes and at one with the government’s practice of playing down all the heightened military threats to Israel – whether from Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah or the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza.
The IDF’s Northern Command officers report that the Syrian army’s buildup opposite Israel has accelerated in April and warn that its units are arrayed for a quick transition to attack mode.
The link-up between Syria’s 10th and 14th divisions on the border running through Mt Hermon should have been a wake-up call for the government in Jerusalem, they say, and elicited counter-moves to show Damascus that Israel is ready to meet every contingency.
Sunday, April 13, prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met briefly to rough out the position Abbas will put before President George W. Bush whom he meets at the White House in ten days. Olmert made the gesture of licensing the entry to Israel of 5,000 Palestinian construction workers. This gesture was challenged by security services as a carrying the risk of terrorist infiltration and by economic leaders who say the Palestinians will take Israeli jobs.
Foreign minister Tzipi Livni is in Qatar, where she is to address the 8th annual Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade. Qatari rulers plan to persuade her that Israel should back their initiatives to patch up quarrels in the Arab world between Egypt and Syria and the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas. Neither is in Israel’s interest, because conciliation would confer legitimacy on Arab and Islamist radicalism and spur its expansion.
Livni, who knew she would come under pressure during her Doha visit, insisted on going through with it andtreating it as a breakthrough in Israeli relations with the Gulf emirates.