The Israeli army staged its largest snap exercise in recent years, deploying troops in the occupied Golan Heights as contingency planning for possible conflicts with Iran and Syria
By Adrian Blomfield, Jerusalem
6:26PM BST 19 September 2012
The Telegraph Group
Thousands of soldiers were summoned from their homes during the night after the Jewish new year holiday and flown to the territory, which Israel captured from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967.
The unannounced manoeuvres come a week before Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York where he is expected to give warning that time is running out to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Mr Netanyahu has engaged in increasingly bellicose rhetoric towards Iran in the past few weeks, raising fears that Israel could strike against its nuclear facilities unless the United States explicitly threatens military action of its own.
With many in the United States and Israel believing that military action cannot be delayed beyond next year, Israeli generals are visibly escalating efforts to ready the armed forces for conflict.
But speculation of an Israel attack over the next few weeks has faded in recent days and a military officials were quick to insist that the exercise was "part of a routine inspection" that "does not indicate any changes" in the country's alert levels.
A similar snap exercise was held at the same last year, when speculation of an imminent Israeli strike against Iran was equally fevered.
Some in Israel's defence establishment now consider it possible that the country is more likely to become entangled in Syria's civil war before the eruption of any confrontation with Iran.
Senior intelligence and military commanders have given warning that Syria's chemical weapon sites are becoming increasingly insecure, raising the possibility of its nerve agent stockpiles falling into the hands of radical Islamists if order in the country breaks down altogether.
They also fear that the Assad regime could supply Hizbollah, the Damascus-backed Shia Muslim militant group based in Lebanon, with chemical weapons in an act of desperation.
Suggesting that Syria could be the prime focus, yesterday's manoeuvres appeared to simulate a cross-border attack on Syria.
However, an even larger Iran-oriented exercise was held along the Lebanese border a fortnight ago.
An Israeli attack on Iran could see Hizbollah, which is funded and armed by both Tehran and Damascus, retaliate by firing rockets onto Jewish territory.
Tens of thousands of Israeli troops in surprise Golan drill, Khamenei: No bending to the West
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 19, 2012, 11:47 AM (GMT+02:00)
Reservists drafted at no notice, Air Force, Central Command and other IDF units were flown to Israel’s northern Golan border early Wednesday, September 19, for a surprise exercise called by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz under the codename “National Asset.”
The official IDF announcement tried to downplay its importance, describing it as a “planned, routine event.” However, Debkafile’s military sources say the war game is the biggest the IDF has conducted in the eight years since the second Lebanon war on Hizballah in 2006, with tens of thousands of soldiers and senior officers, including the artillery and the air force taking part.
Over the last weekend, witnesses reported heavy traffic of convoys of tank and APC carriers and military vehicles with emergency store markings heading north, just days after the IDF completed a large-scale war game on Israel’s Syrian and Lebanese borders simulating a Hizballah attack.
Since early September, therefore, the Israeli Defense Forces have been in the midst of preparations which have the appearance of readiness for a real war rather than an exercise. Those preparations peaked Wednesday under a codename which signified its goal: the defense of national assets.
Another sign of an impending conflict was provided by US diplomats who Monday began destroying classified documents and sensitive equipment at the Beirut embassy. As Islamist anti-US violence raged across Arab and Muslim countries, the State Department said this was a precautionary measure, without naming any specific threat. The trashing of embassy documents usually signifies preparations to evacuate an US embassy at short notice. It would be imperative in a war situation to keep them out of Hizballah hands.
The official IDF announcement described the exercise as focusing on fire power under the command of chief Artillery Commander, Brig. Gen. Ro’i Riftin and due to end Wednesday night. The rapid deployment of military strength on this scale for a live-fire drill is required practice for an army facing the onset of war aggression.
In the Persian Gulf, the US is leading 25 West European and Arab nations in a gigantic 12-day war game in the Straits of Hormuz which began Sunday, September 16. It includes a large-scale minesweeping drill to simulate the breaching of the Strait of Hormuz against Iranian efforts to block oil passage through the strategic waterway. The exercise - entirely by simulated measures - will also drill operations for destroying Iranian naval, air and missile bases in the Persian Gulf area and countering Iranian speedboats aiming to sabotage naval vessels and oil tankers.
Among the participants are the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The United States has deployed three aircraft carriers with aerial strike forces. Military sources estimate that when the war game ends on September 27, these forces will not disperse but stay on hand in the event of Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear program.
As the exhibition of colossal Western might got underway opposite Iranian shores, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted on his official website as saying: Iran will never bend to Western pressure The Islamic Republic, he told a military audience, "makes its decisions solely based on the interests of its people and the country, even if all of the world's powers get angry at its decisions."
It "does not accept the demands of any superpower," he added.
The Ayatollah also accused "Western and Zionist media" of fabricating reports on the biting effects of economic sanctions, hinting that the Iranian economy was not suffering.
iran can pound salt for all i care ...their arab spring happened in 1979 ....how did that work for them ...fashion modles in western dress ...drinking alcohol ..disco's ...but then again thay are not arabs ...
I believe I read on another thread (maybe the Netanyahu--impending war thread here on Main, or maybe it was someone's comment in BS)---but it's common sense common knowledge so I believe I can repeat it----that we will KNOW Israel truly really "is" about to go when we suddenly see Israel staging large-scale 'training' exercises.
Sounds like we're coming down to the wire...
The only "change" I CAN believe in: I Corinthians 15: 51-52!
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