Israel must be ready for 'surprise war' with Syria, air force chief says
Metal placards in the shape of Israeli soldiers stand on an old bunker during sunset at an observation point on Mt. Bental in the Israeli controlled Golan Heights, overlooking the border with Syria Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:56PM EDT
JERUSALEM -- Israel's air force chief warned Wednesday that tensions with Syria could escalate into a "surprise war" and that Israel needs to be ready.
The remarks by Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel Wednesday echoed statements by Israel's military chief of staff a day earlier.
"A surprise war could take shape today in many configurations," Eshel said at a strategy conference in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. "Isolated incidents can escalate very quickly and require us to be prepared in a matter of hours to operate throughout the entire spectrum ... to utilize all the capabilities of the air force," he said.
He said Russian S-300 air defence systems are "on their way" to Syria, though Israel asked Russia not to supply the advanced air defence system to Syria.
Israel has been warily watching the Syrian civil war since it broke out in March 2011, concerned that the conflict could spill across its borders at any time.
Syrian and Israeli forces briefly exchanged fire on the Golan Heights border Tuesday, prompting Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, to accuse Syrian President Bashar Assad of encouraging and directing operations against Israel and warning he would "bear the consequences" of escalation.
Tensions have been rising between Israel and Syria in recent weeks. Israel is believed to have carried out airstrikes said to be aimed at weapons meant for the Lebanese Hezbollah. Israel has not confirmed carrying out the attacks.
Israel has warned it will not tolerate fire from Syria or transfer of advanced weapons to militants. Israel is concerned that Syria's arsenal, including chemical weapons, anti-aircraft systems and sophisticated missiles, could be transferred to Hezbollah or fall into the hands of rebel groups linked to al-Qaida.
"Syria is changing before our eyes. If tomorrow it collapses, we could very quickly find that great arsenal dispersed and directed at us," Eshel said.