Barak: Israel’s army and intelligence poised for instant response to Hizballah attack
March 24, 2008, 1:42 PM (GMT+02:00)
First publication of recent Imad Mughniyeh photo surveying Israel from Syrian Mt. Hermon
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak decided to place the armed forces on guard in view of indications that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah may seriously intend making good on his threat of “open war” against Israel, whom he accuses of the Feb. 12 killing of Imad Mughniyeh.
Barak said Monday, March 24, Hizballah’s revenge threats are not to be taken lightly: “We must all be vigilant in the near future. But we’ll overcome that too.”
The Israeli Air Force, according to our sources, has prepared two command and control airplanes which are capable of transporting command centers and special forces from place to place and reacting to terrorist attacks far from Israel.
The Magen David Adom service nationwide has placed on standby double its usual complement of ambulances and medical teams.
According to our military sources, Barak latest directives Monday, March 24, signify his change of mind about the prospect of a Hizballah revenge attack. The earlier presumption that the Lebanese terrorists would hold their fire up until the Arab League summit convening in Damascus on March 29-30 has been abandoned to meet fast-moving events across Israel’s northern border.
1. Syria last week pushed the fighting strength of Palestinian terrorist groups under its shared control with Iran – an estimated 3,000-strong – across the border into the Lebanese Beqaa Valley.
It was initially supposed that these groups had been removed from their Damascus bases to get them out of the way of the Arab summit. But they have since been observed taking up battle positions and the delivery of large quantities of brand new weapons and ammunition.
2. Syria has also speeded up its arms shipments to Hizballah - notably, as DEBKAfile revealed two days ago, anti-aircraft weapons.
3. Apparently for back-up, Syria has massed armored divisions along its Lebanese border.
Israel’s military chiefs now read these moves as meaning that Hizballah, the new Palestinian deployment and the Syrian back-up forces are set to launch a military strike against targets in Israel and bracing for Israeli retaliation.
Israel’s defense chiefs do not count out Hizballah embarking on a number of coordinated terrorist operations over several hours or even days, synchronized with cross-border attacks on targets inside Israel.
The terrorist strikes may well be large-scale, multiple-casualty and directed at an overseas Israeli or Jewish target. The head of the terror center in the prime minister’s office referred incautiously last week to Hizballah’s hopes of Israel having to fly home “40 or 50 coffins,” a goal which Israel is determined to prevent - hence the Air Force’s command and control planes on the ready for rapid take-off to the scene of an attack. They are fitted out and manned for a wide range of contingencies, including rescue operations on foreign soil, requiring the local government’s approval.