Hezbollah has raised its state of alert in Lebanon following the recent war of words between Israeli and Syrian officials, according to a report by the Beirut correspondent of Saudi daily Al-Okaz.
The report cites growing concerns in Lebanon that Israel is either planning to attack Lebanon, or that tensions in the region will result in an Israeli operation there.
Senior Lebanese sources told the Saudi paper that Hezbollah has announced emergency readiness in all areas of the country where it operates. Senior figures of the organization were asked to exercise greater caution in their movements amid fears they would be targeted by Israel.
The sources said the radical Lebanese Shi'ite group was preparing for any eventuality.
Meanwhile, the verbal sparring between Jerusalem and Damascus continued over the weekend, even if in lower tones. Official Syrian newspaper Tishrin said in an editorial that "the threats from Israel make it clear that it intends to initiate a new war whose limits are unknown."
The editorial added that "death and destruction may occur if Israel responds to the logic of some of its leaders, in whose veins flows crime. Damascus is ready for any path that Israel chooses, whether it is peace or war."
The editorial's author is the newspaper's editor-in-chief, who wrote that the "logic of war and threats is the dominant logic in Israel. Talk of peace is chatter void of substance that is mere media propaganda. There is no real political decision for peace in the Zionist entity, despite promises of this, on the basis of restoring rights to their rightful owners."
Meanwhile, State Department officials were quoted by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Saudi newspaper, saying that the exchange of threats between Syria and Israel is making it difficult to resume negotiations between the two sides.
The comments were made after threats by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem last week that an Israeli attack against Syria would be total war. His Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, warned that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his family would not remain in power as a result of the next war.
The U.S. officials said that Washington is working hard to resume negotiations on all levels, including the Syrian-Israeli track. They noted that the newly appointed American ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, will immediately begin talks with Syria on all relevant issues.
Syrian sources said yesterday that Lieberman's comments were either for domestic consumption or an attempt to cover the current Israeli leadership's inability to meet the conditions that would spur a comprehensive and just peace in the region.
In response to Israeli criticism of his statements, Lieberman said Friday that "I do not work for the media or public relations firms."
In an interview on Channel 2, he said that "I ran in elections, presented my worldview in a clear fashion and no one needs to guess who Lieberman is. We are loyal to that same way and our promises to the voters.
"My response, which was made to clarify that the situation is unacceptable, was immediately met with hysteria in Israel: 'How dare we annoy the tyrant?'" he said, referring to Assad.
"I am sorry about this habit of the left in Israel. I think that in the Middle East serious things should not be left unanswered." Lieberman was commenting on statements made by Assad to Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, which he described as "a direct threat to the State of Israel."
At the end of a meeting Friday, Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel aims for peace and negotiations with Syria without preconditions.
Netanyahu will try to end the verbal confrontation at this morning's cabinet meeting by opening with a statement that Israel seeks peace and has no belligerent intentions. Netanyahu will also emphasize that he is ready to begin talks immediately without preconditions.
The head of the political-security bureau at the Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, joined the efforts Saturday to restore calm to the Syrian-Israeli front. Gilad said that "to the extent that we can evaluate - and we have excellent intelligence - there is no intention by the other side to attack us. As such, the evaluation is that no war is expected."
Gilad, who spoke on the Channel 2 show "Meet the Press," said he cannot see Syria or Hezbollah having an interest in war with Israel at the moment.
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