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Saudi Arabia News Station Interviews Olmert


The Saudi Arabia news station Al Arabiya interviewed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday night. He reiterated previous statements that he is willing to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"If you want to talk, sit down and talk," Olmert said, referring to Assad, adding that Assad would be welcome to Jerusalem. However the Syrian leader has rejected the overtures as insincere and based on pre-conditions (See story below).

'Mideast War This Summer'


If Israel doesn't vacate the strategic Golan Heights before September, Syrian guerrillas will immediately launch "resistance operations" against the Golan's Jewish communities, a top official from Syrian President Bashar Assad's Baath party told WND.

The Baath official, who spoke on condition his name be withheld, said Damascus is preparing for anticipated Israeli retaliation following Syrian guerrilla attacks and for a larger war with the Jewish state in August or September. He said in the opening salvo of any conflict, Syria has the capabilities of firing "hundreds" of missiles at Tel Aviv.

"Syria passed repeated messages to the U.S. that we demand the return of the Golan either through negotiations or through war. If the Golan is not in our hands by August or September, we will be poised to launch resistance, including raids and attacks against Jewish positions (in the Golan Heights)," the Baath official said.

The Golan Heights is strategic mountainous territory looking down on Israeli population centers captured by Israel after Syria twice used the territory to attack the Jewish state.

The Baath official said a new purported guerrilla group called the Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights has been training and is ready to attacks against Jewish communities in the Golan in August or September.

He said Syria is preparing for a war. "More and more of our units have undergone intensive trainings starting at 6 a.m. and finishing late into the evening. If the need arises, we are ready for a war," said the official.

The official said Syria "learned from the Hizbullah experience last summer and we can have hundreds of missiles hitting Tel Aviv that will overwhelm Israel's anti-missile batteries."

He claimed Syria has "proof" Israel is also readying for a war. "We hear about special Israeli trainings to take Damascus. We see that Israel is re-establishing bases of the Israeli army in the Golan that are unusual and not needed except for war. We believe the Israeli government has an interest in confronting Syria to rehabilitate its image of losing to Hizbullah." He also claimed newly installed Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former prime minister, "wants to prove he is a military expert."

Israeli security officials confirmed the stepped-up military presence of Syrian troops deployed along the Syrian side of the Golan Heights with strengthened forces after carrying out increased training the last few months. The security officials noted the movement of Syrian Scud missiles near the border with Israel and said Syria recently increased production of rockets and acquired missiles capable of hitting central Israeli population centers.

The Syrian army has improved its fortifications, according to the Israeli security officials, and has received modern, Russian-made anti-tank missiles similar to the missiles that devastated Israeli tanks during the last Lebanon war, causing the highest number of Israeli troop casualties during the 34-days of military confrontations. Syria also received from Russia advanced anti-aircraft missiles.

The security officials said any conflict with Syria could degenerate into a larger war involving Hizbullah along Israel's northern border and Palestinian terror groups launching attacks from Gaza in the south and the West Bank toward the center of Israel. The officials noted Syria stepped up the pace of weapons, including rockets, being shipped from the Syrian border to the Lebanese Hizbullah militia.

The security officials said the greatest threat Syria poses to the Jewish state are the country's missiles and rockets. They noted Syria recently test-fired two Scud-D surface-to-surface missiles, which have a range of about 250 miles, covering most Israeli territory. The officials said the Syrian missile test was coordinated with Iran and is believed to have been successful. It is not known what type of warhead the missiles had.

In addition to longer-range Scuds, Syria is in possession of shorter-range missiles such as 220 millimeter and 305 millimeter rockets, some of which have been passed on to Hizbullah.

Israel also has information Syria recently acquired and deployed Chinese-made C-802 missiles, which were successfully used against the Israeli navy during Israel's war against Hizbullah last July and August. The missiles were passed to Syria by Iran, Israeli security officials told WND.

Israeli security officials said Syria is indeed preparing for a summer war. But they said there was an argument within the Israeli intelligence community whether the military buildup is for an attack or is meant by Syria to pressure Israel into vacating the Golan Heights. Some officials said Syria estimates the U.S. or Israel will attack Iran, and Syria will be drawn into a larger military confrontation by opening up a front against northern Israel. Also, the officials said, Syria may believe Israel will attack first and its preparations are defensive in nature.

The Israeli army is not taking any chances. The Israel Defense Forces last month reportedly carried out a mock attack on a "Syrian" village during a major exercise in the Negev. The Israeli soldiers besieged and occupied the village, designed to be similar to towns on the Syrian side of the Golan. Similar war exercises were carried out in Israel the past few months, including a mock attack on Damascus.

According to security officials, recent U.S. intelligence estimates also predict a strong possibility of war between Israel and Syria in the coming months. Dennis Ross, the U.S. Middle East envoy under the Clinton administration, said this weekend in an interview with YnetNews, a leading Israeli news website, he thinks "there is a risk of war" between Israel and Syria this summer. "Nobody has made any decision (about going to war), but the Syrians are positioning themselves for war," said Ross.

The reports of war also come amid a flurry of articles in the Arab media the past few days claiming Syria has warned its citizens residing in Lebanon to leave the country ahead of a civil war there. Israeli security officials noted the possibility of a civil war in Lebanon, and said there were strong concerns violence there could be used as an excuse for Hizbullah or Palestinian groups to attack Israel.

The Baath official speaking to WND said Syria learned the advantages of using guerrilla tactics to achieve political ends from Hizbullah's war against the Jewish state last summer. He said the Committee for the Liberation of the Golan is modeling itself after Hizbullah.

The Baath official's statements follow a series of WND interviews in which Baath officials said a purported new Syrian guerrilla organization recently was formed and is ready for attacks if Israel doesn't withdraw from the Golan. According to the officials, the Syrian Committees for the Liberation of the Golan was formed last year.

In a WND interview, one Baath party official said Syria learned from Hizbullah's military campaign against Israel last summer that "fighting" is more effective than peace negotiations with regard to gaining territory."

Hizbullah claims its goal is to liberate the Shebaa Farms, a small, 12-square-mile bloc situated between Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The cease-fire resolution accepted by Israel to end its military campaign in Lebanon last July and August called for negotiations leading to Israel's relinquishing of the Shebaa Farms.

The Baath official told WND Syria's new Committees for the Liberation of the Golan Heights consists of Syrian volunteers, many from the Syrian border with Turkey and from Palestinian refugee camps near Damascus. He said Syria held registration for volunteers to join the Committees last June.

The official said attacks by the Committees may include the infiltration of Jewish communities in the Golan, rocket attacks against Israeli positions or raids of Golan-based Israeli military installations. He said all attacks would be launched from the Syrian side of the border.

Arab League Delegation to Make Unprecedented Visit to Israel

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Arab League is sending a delegation to Israel this week for the first time. The 22-nation organization is pushing a new initiative for Mideast peace.

The visit of the Arab League delegation to Israel is a sign of deep concern about the violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last month by the Islamic terrorist group Hamas. (Editor's Comment: Just prior to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan sent a delegation to Washington, DC.)

Moderate Arab states want to push Israel to revive peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads a western-backed government in the West Bank. They believe that negotiations on the creation of a Palestinian state could prevent a similar takeover of the West Bank by Hamas.

So the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan will visit Israel this week on behalf of the Arab League to discuss what is known as the Arab peace initiative. It calls for all Arab states to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders.

Israel rejects that demand because it would mean giving up Jerusalem's Old City and all West Bank settlements. But Israeli officials say the visit of the Arab League delegation is "historic."

"The opportunity is to find the common denominator between Israel and the other moderates in the world, but also in the region," said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. "And there is [a] common denominator and there are mutual interests. Nobody wants to see Hamas succeed."

But after the forces of Abbas were routed by Hamas in Gaza, many Israelis believe handing him major concessions would be a grave mistake. Israel TV journalist Yohanan El Rom said Abbas did not abide by the internationally-backed "Roadmap" peace plan, so he should not be rewarded with a Palestinian state.

"He is a leader of the Palestinian Authority in name only. He is weak, he has not kept his promises, the first item on the Roadmap was to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, he did not do it," said El Rom. "He is reaping now his inaction. He is a failure as a leader."

Abbas is also pushing for peace talks with Israel, saying the hope of a Palestinian state will improve his standing among his people and show them the benefits of moderation. But Hamas, which seeks Israel's destruction, said Abbas is an illegitimate leader and any negotiations with him are doomed to failure.

Harry Potter Arriving in Israel


Tens of thousands copies of the seventh and last installment in the Harry Potter series were flown to Israel Sunday night, wrapped in black nylon. The English-language books are being stored under tight security at the Steimatzky book chain's storage depot and will unwrapped an hour before their official international release on July 21.

Ahead of zero-hour, a mass event will be held in Tel Aviv Saturday evening including magic shows, fireworks and music. Author JK Rowling's speech to 1,700 avid fans at London's Natural History Museum will be broadcast on a huge screen. At 2:01 a.m. Israel time, the book will be released and sales will begin.

The Israeli publishers, "Yedioth Books" and "Aliyat Gag," are getting ready to start translating the book, hoping to publish the Hebrew edition in December. The Hebrew translator of the Harry Potter series, Gili Bar-Hillel, will fly to London ahead of the book's launch, purchase a copy and read it on the plane back to Israel. From that point on, Bar-Hillel will be under a strict work schedule aimed at setting a record time of translating a book in less than a year.

So far, over 870,000 copies of Harry Potter have been sold in Israel and publishers expect "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows" to sell over a million copies.

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