Senior Arab officials tell Israel that Syria is not planning to attack
Russian sources: Syria receives ten advanced anti-aircraft missiles batteries, 26 more to be delivered.
Two friendly Arab countries have told Israel that Syria is not planning to attack in the coming months. The messages were relayed by senior-level officials and are based in part on talks with the officials' Syrian counterparts.
This is part of a broader effort by moderate Arab states to contain the tension emerging between Jerusalem and Damascus.
The officials say the Syrian military preparations are defensive, and are a "mirror image" of similar Israeli movements in the Golan Heights.
Meanwhile, Syria has received 10 batteries of advanced anti-aircraft missiles, Russian sources say. This is the first in a series of shipments that are to include 36 such batteries.
The anti-aircraft missiles are part of a $900 million arms deal, Moscow's Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Friday, citing Russian military industry sources.
Two months ago, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that the deal included a total of 50 batteries, and that 10 of these were meant for Iran.
Syria has denied that the deal is connected to Iran.
The Israeli defense establishment is closely following the Syrian rearmament because of the implications it holds for the Lebanese front.
The missile system in question, Pantsyr-S1 (NATO code-name SA-22), carries short range anti-aircraft weapons that can be mounted on vehicles. Israeli defense officials are concerned that such missiles will be transferred to Hezbollah, which could launch them via small, difficult to detect squads.
In addition to being a close-in air defense system designed to defend ground installations against a variety of weapons, including aircraft, helicopters, missiles and precision-guided munitions, it can also engage light-armored ground targets.
Pantsyr-S1 carries 12 surface-to-air missiles on launchers with a target acquisition radar with detection ranges of 30 kilometers. This radar tracks both targets and the surface-to-air missile while in flight. Maximum engagement rate is 12 targets a minute, according to the manufacturer, KBP Instrument Design Bureau of Tula, Russia.
Since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Syria has been carrying out a rapid rearmament program. In addition to anti-aircraft weapons, it has focused on advanced anti-tank missiles like those Hezbollah used against Israeli armor during the war.
During his visit to Jerusalem last week, U.S. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns described Syria as a country that supports terrorism.
He was particularly scathing regarding the ties between Syria and Iran. "We are making efforts to isolate Iran, and Syria is one of the few countries that are an obstacle to this and who are working in the opposite direction," he said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki is expected to visit neighboring Syria tomorrow to discuss "security and political issues," official government spokesman Ali al-Dabagh told Iraqi state television Saturday. No further details were disclosed by al-Dabagh.