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Monday, October 09, 2006

IDF preparing response to 'hypothetical' Syrian attack

With Syria growing 'impatient' over Israel's failure to gift it the Golan Heights, and threatening to attack to 'get them back,' the IDF is preparing a response to any Syrian attack. That response, we are told, will be much harsher than what went on in Lebanon this past summer.
The first difference would be the bank of targets. On the night of July 12, hours after the kidnapping, the cabinet convened to approve a list of targets for the IAF to strike. None of them included government or Lebanese armed forces sites. The closest the IAF got to striking at the Lebanese government during the month-long war in Lebanon was the bombing of the runway at Beirut International Airport.

The Syrian bank of targets would be different. It would not only include military infrastructure, such as bases, rocket launchers and silos, but also government buildings, headquarters, power plants, electricity grids and water reservoirs.

"We will shut down the entire country" was how one defense official described the potential response.


Israel is concerned that Syria might consider adopting the Egyptian model from the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Then, Egypt launched a surprise attack against Israel and, while it lost the war, obtained a major diplomatic victory. The war led to peace talks between the two countries and the eventual return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

Syria, officials warn, might be thinking it can do the same. While aware he will lose the war, President Bashar Assad might be thinking that even a loss would force Israel into peace talks and the eventual return of the Golan Heights, captured during the Six Day War in 1967. On the other hand, officials say Assad's warlike and threatening comments should not be taken at face value. They could just be attempts to grab the world's attention and force Israel into peace talks despite strong American opposition.
The military assessments look very much in Israel's favor, but as we know, wars are fought on the ground, not on paper, and given the gutless manner in which the Israeli government fought this summer's war in Lebanon, one has to wonder whether it will really go all out against the Syrians:
While Israel has uncontested air superiority over Syria - the IAF boasts F-16s and F-15s while the Syrian air force's newest jet is the MiG-29 from 1987 - the Syrian military has built up a strong array of missiles including some that are capable of carrying warheads filled with nerve gas, such as Sarin and VX. Damascus is currently in a race to build up its army and has recently drastically increased its defense budget after some $14 billion in loans it owed were erased.

According to the Middle East Military Balance, published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Syria has several hundred Scud missiles, some of which it received in 2002, and close to 100 ballistic missile launchers.

On the ground, the IDF infantry and Armored Corps would face 12 Syrian ground divisions, equipped with 3,700 Russian tanks, including 122 T-72s upgraded by an Italian firm in 2003. Syria also has more military personnel than Israel - 290,00 soldiers compared to almost 180,000.
That 180,000 probably includes the entire standing IDF - and it is likely that if Syria started up, the 'Palestinians' would try to take advantage of the situation. Israel will have to prepare for the possibility that the IAF will not succeed in destroying all of Syria's ballistic missiles and that some might get through. In that case, as a first line of defense, the IAF has the Patriot 3 and the Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense systems that are supposed to intercept the incoming threats. If, however, those don't function, it will be up to Home Front Command to ensure citizens of northern and central Israel have the necessary means of protection.
And we all know what a great job the 'home front' did last summer. Ask any resident of the north who spent the entire summer cowering in shelters or wandering all over the country from one refuge to the next.


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