DEBKAfile: A partial call-up of reserves is reported in Syria by Western sources in Lebanon
September 10, 2007, 11:03 AM (GMT+02:00)
Those sources say Syria has mobilized armored, missile, air crews and air defense units - partly in readiness for repeats of alleged Israeli incursions of Syrian airspace and partly in response to the partial call-up in Israel which began beginning last Thursday, Sept 6. The Syrian armed forces are on full alert.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that the silent war of nerves, started after the first Syrian allegation that Israeli bombers had violated of its airspace Thursday, continues.
Jerusalem and Damascus are straining to hold back from an open clash, but voices are rising in the Syrian army urging President Bashar Assad to retaliate militarily to the purported Israeli infringement and come out of his passivity in the face of Israeli incursions. Assaf Shawqat, Syrian military intelligence chief and the president’s brother-in-law, is the most insistent. According to Western sources, he has begun mobilizing his loyalists in the military officers’ corps.
Israeli ministers and spokesmen are under strict orders not to utter a word about the episode. Prime minister Ehud Olmert opened the weekly cabinet session in Jerusalem Sunday, Sept.9, with the remark: “It is not always possible to show one’s cards.” Journalists were kept away from the ministers.
DEBKAfile’s sources doubt whether this silent poker game can be sustained either by Jerusalem or Damascus in the present state of suspense. Since the “no comments” stratagem serve Israel’s interests most, Syria is likely to make the first move; its call-up of reserves may be a straw in the wind.
In an interview with the American CBS network recorded Saturday, Assad dismissed Israel’s charges that Syria was funneling arms to Hizballah, including consignments from Iran.
He said: “Intelligence services, probably from all over the world, operate on the Lebanese side of the border with Syria and the Israelis fly over Lebanon … I told them provide us with a single evidence that we have sent one missile to Hizballah. These are fake claims."
Syria, Assad said, supports Hizballah politically.
Assad also denied that Damascus airport is being used by terrorists as a springboard to fight the U.S. forces in Iraq. "They enter illegally across the border and we've managed to arrest them," Assad stressed.
Asked to comment on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenjad's call to wipe Israel off the map, Assad said: "This is freedom of speech. Any person in the world has the right to express himself freely. This is just an expression."
In Rome, meanwhile, Syria’s vice president Farouk a-Shara issued an angry statement Saturday. He said his government is considering responses to Israeli jet flights over Syria and the results will not be long coming.