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Israel's military chiefs warn of Syria threat

May 23, 2013 at 5:23 AM   |   Comments

TEL AVIV, Israel, May 23 (UPI) -- The Syrian army will soon receive advanced missile defense systems, which Israel's air force commander warned could be used against Israel.

"Aerial superiority is a condition to win and win quickly, and is of great strategic importance. The other side understands that well, which is why Assad with his low budget, has invested billions into purchasing anti-aircraft missiles," Ynetnews.com reported Israel's air force commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, said Wednesday at a conference in Herzliya.

He was referring to the delivery of Russian-made S-300 missile defense systems, a move that has been harshly criticized by Israel and the United States.

Syria is "changing before our eyes. If it collapses tomorrow, we could find its vast arsenal dispersed and pointed at us," Israel Radio quoted Eshel as saying.

"A lone incident can escalate very quickly and obligate us to be prepared within hours to act."

While the situation on Israel's northern border didn't develop overnight, Israel must be prepared, he said.

"No one is going to tell us to take two weeks to prepare for war," he said.

If a conflict with Syria erupts, "we will have to be ready for confrontations in Gaza and Lebanon, including long-range ones," he said.

Eshel's comments echoed those made by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz on Tuesday, when the lieutenant general warned Israel is facing a substantial threat of a multi-front conflict.

"We must work in a joint coordinated manner with maximum efficiency to ensure we win quickly in every confrontation, and to win every future war," Israel's Channel One quoted him as saying.

Gantz also warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that if he attacked Israel he will bear the consequences.

The New York Times reported Thursday Israel is working with villages in Syria close to the Israeli border, supplying them moderate humanitarian aid and maintaining "intense intelligence activity." The report noted the villagers aren't affiliated with the regime or rebel forces.

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