'Chances of war with Syria still high'

IAF chief: "We need to be as sharp as a razor ahead of what might happen."

By
September 23, 2007 23:46
3 minute read.
iaf jets in a row VERY GOOD

iaf jets lined up real n. (photo credit: AP [file])

The IDF continued to maintain a high level of alert along the northern border on Sunday as senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post that while close to three weeks have passed since Israel's alleged air strike in Syria, there is still a chance war could break out. Reflecting the escalation in tension, IDF troops were alerted to the northern border fence Sunday morning after the electronic alarm was activated, sparking fears of a possible infiltration from Syria. The army said the alarm went off after the fence was touched, and that tracks were spotted on the Syrian side of the border. Soldiers who arrived on the scene ruled out an infiltration, and the IDF said it was possible that a roving animal had triggered the alarm. Sunday's incident followed the scrambling of two fighter jets on Saturday to the northern border after a Syrian military jet that was being tracked by Israel disappeared from military radar systems. A short time later, the IAF discovered that the Syrian jet had crashed in Syrian territory. "The tension is still high and so is the level of alert," a defense official said Sunday. "What is reassuring is that the Syrians have not yet responded to the alleged strike, which hopefully means that they will continue to demonstrate restraint." IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy said Sunday that Israel was currently in a "complex" situation and that the air force was prepared for all developments. "The IAF has relevance in all types of conflicts - some that are nearby with countries that we share a border with and some that are farther away," he said during a tour of a Jerusalem high school. "We need to be well prepared and sharp as a razor ahead of anything that might happen." Speaking at a Yom Kippur War memorial ceremony at Mt. Herzl on Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also warned that the relative calm and quiet could not be understood at face value. "If there is one lesson that can be learned from the Yom Kippur War, it's that we should not be mislead by deceptive periods of calm," he said in reference to the tension with Syria as well as diplomatic developments vis-à-vis the Palestinians. "The spirit of Israel must be prepared at every moment as if the next war is around the corner." Barak's remarks came hours after Britain's Sunday Times reported that soldiers from the IDF's elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) had seized North Korean nuclear material from a secret Syrian military installation before it was bombed by IAF jets. Quoting "informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem," the paper claimed that the alleged IAF attack on September 6 was sanctioned by the US after the Americans were given proof that the material was indeed nuclear-related. The sources confirmed to the paper that the materials were tested after they were taken from Syria and were found to be of North Korean origin, which raised concerns that Syria may have been trying to come into the possession of nuclear arms. The commandos, according to the report, may have been disguised in Syrian army uniforms. It was also stated that Barak, who used to head the unit, personally oversaw the operation. Israeli sources admitted that special forces had been accruing intelligence in Syria for several months, the report said, adding that evidence of North Korean activity at the installation was presented to President George Bush during the summer. According to the Times, North Korea and China believed that North Koreans were among the dead in the subsequent alleged IAF air strike. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Israel and the United States had collaborated on intelligence ahead of the alleged IAF raid. According to the Post report, Israel informed the US over the summer that North Korean personnel were in Syria in order to assist the country's nuclear weapons program. The intelligence in question reportedly included satellite imagery.


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