Feb 22, 2007

Haaretz Reports That Iran is Aiding Syria's Military Buildup

Responding to a Haaretz report that Syria is boosting its army and moving troops closer to its border with Israel, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Thursday that Israel should refrain from making further statements regarding Syria, and urged officials to avoid a verbal escalation of tensions.

Speaking at his weekly meeting with Defense Ministry officials, Peretz said that the situation would be assessed based on concrete information, and that the army would prepare itself as necessary. ...

The Syrian armed forces are being strengthened in an unprecedented way in recent memory with the help of generous funding from Iran and its troops appear to be moving closer to the border with Israel.

The Syrians are bolstering their forces in all areas except the air force, which has been believed to be weak for some time. The main emphasis of the efforts has been missiles and long-range rockets to compensate for the weak air force.

The Syrian navy, after years of neglect, is also being reinforced with an Iranian version of a Chinese anti-ship missile, similar to the one used by Hezbollah during the second Lebanon war to strike the Israeli destroyer INS Hanit.

In addition to the overall strengthening of the armed forces in Syria, there has been a redeployment of forces along the front lines. It appears that the Syrians have moved forces closer to the border with Israel on the Golan Heights.

The Yom Kippur War on the Syrian front began with a raid by helicopter-borne Syrian commandos on the Hermon listening post, which they then occupied. The position was not taken by Israeli forces until the end of the war in a very costly battle involving Golani and Paratrooper Brigade troops.

Syria's rebuilding of its military strength has also included test launches of ballistic missiles. Lately, the Syrians test-fired a Scud-D surface-to-surface missile, the latest version of a Soviet-era missile. The Scud-D has a 400-kilometer range and covers most of the territory of Israel.

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