Israel raises alert level in Golon after Syria threat


Israel has gone on heightened alert over a possible war with Syria amid reports that President Bashar Assad may be considering military strikes to regain the Golan Heights.

For years Israeli military intelligence has down-played Syria's capacity to launch a meaningful attack against Israel, and the threat level has been kept "low".

But Israeli reports have revealed that the threat level had been raised after intelligence assessments that Damascus is "seriously examining" military action.

The raised threat level comes as Israel prepares for Monday's Day of Atonement, known as Yom Kippur, a solemn Jewish holiday when the entire country effectively shuts down as residents fast and seek forgiveness for sins.

It was on Yom Kippur in 1973 that Israel was caught by surprise as Syrian and Egyptian forces launched a joint attack and inflicted heavy losses before being repelled.

"The first two days of that war were huge defeats for Israel," said Prof Uri Bar-Joseph, an expert on the 1973 conflict. "All the intelligence analysts failed."

Israel is determined to make sure that it is not surprised again, flagging up Syrian military preparations and signals from President Assad that his country might be readying for war.

The Syrian leader said this week that he "wanted to make peace with Israel". But he warned that his "hopes for peace could change one day".

"And if this hope disappears, then war may really be the only solution," he added.

That mixed message has proved divisive in Israel, renewing debate about whether to stay tough, or engage with Syria and solve the decades-long dispute over the strategically important Golan Heights, which Israel first captured in the 1967 Six Day War. Jewish settlers now populate the territory, which is crucial to Israel as a buffer zone with Syria and as a vantage point over its hostile neighbour, as well as providing Israel with a large proportion of its water supply.

Syrian leadership including Assad appears to be out of touch with reality often and it would not surprise me to seem them miscalculate again like they did in the Hariri murder plot. Syria would actually be much easier to defeat than Hezballah, because most of her assets are well known. A Syrian miscalculation would also disrupt the flow of jihadis into Iraq, because most of them flow through the airport in Damascus.


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