fatah in ramallah 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Syria is genuinely concerned about an Israeli attack and, as a result, is exhibiting increasing military activity, Military Intelligence's head of research Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz told the cabinet on Sunday.
Baidatz repeated what the cabinet has been told numerous times over the last few months, that the increased Syrian activity is of a defensive, not offensive, nature, and that the Syrians are not interested in a war with Israel.
"The Syrians continue to be concerned about an Israeli attack," Baidatz said.
This concern comes despite Israeli signals to the contrary.
Just last Tuesday, for example, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - in reference to persistent rumors of an impending war - said: "I believe, with all my heart, that this summer and the fall will not be too hot. There is no reason to exaggerate in creating an atmosphere of the eve of war. Our neighbors know well that we prefer sitting and discussing peace with them, rather than proving to them that we are stronger."
Baidatz said Damascus was interested in peace with Israel on its terms, and that recent comments by President Bashar Assad and other Syrian leaders reflected this. Their terms, however, include a full Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967, lines.
On the same day that Baidatz was talking about a Syrian interest in peace, however, Damascus's Information Minister Mohsen Bilal was quoted as having launched a harsh attack on Israel and the US, comparing both countries to a snake "ready to attack at any minute, even if it knows it will die."
According to Israel Radio, Bilal, speaking to the Persian Gulf newspaper Al-Hilaj, characterized Israel as an "immoral" nation lacking in values. As proof of this assertion, he said former president Moshe Katsav had raped a "young daughter of his people."
The minister also criticized Saudi Arabia for expressing a willingness to participate in the planned regional meeting initiated by US President George W. Bush.
Baidatz also told the cabinet that he believed the West Bank might soon see Fatah-Hamas clashes, and described violent episodes between the two sides that have taken place there in recent weeks.
He said that despite attempts by various players - including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia - to bring Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leaders together for a dialogue, the rift between the two sides continued.
Baidatz said that while the Fatah-controlled PA security forces were attempting to reduce Hamas's influence in the West Bank, they were largely relying on the IDF to carry out this task.