'Tension with Syria over Israeli warning to Assad'
Olmert denies current emergency drill a prelude to war

According to aides of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, escalating tensions with Damascus are a result of an Israeli message to Syria warning that if any Jewish interests were harmed here or abroad in revenge for assassinated Hizbullah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, President Bashar Assad and his government will be blamed.

The message apparently was the reason Syria called up reservists last week, further increasing tensions along the border.

Despite Israeli denials, Hizbullah and Syria blame Jerusalem for the assassination and sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has promised to attack Jews worldwide. Jerusalem's messaage to Damascus was an effort to force the Syrian regime to rein in its proxy militia Hizbullah.

According to latest reports, Olmert has granted a US request to hold congressional sessions disclosing more information on an alleged Israeli airstrike on a Syrian nuclear facility last September, a decision that could further increase Israeli-Syrian tensions. The Bush Administrations said it wants to disclose the details in an effort to stop North Korean nuclear proliferation in the region.

During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Olmert also insisted that this week's massive civil emergency drill under the Home Front Command was not a signal of war plans against Syria.

"I want to emphasize that this is only a drill, with nothing hiding behind it," said Olmert when announcing the launch of the drill at the weekly cabinet session. "All the reports about heightened tension in the North are exaggerated. We have no secret plans... this is a routine drill. The State of Israel is not intent on any violent confrontation in the North. On the contrary, we have said more than once that we have an interest in holding peace negotiations with Syria."

However, sheikh Naim Kassem, the deputy head of Hizbullah, said on Sunday that Israel’s drill shows it is getting ready for another Lebanon war and cautioned that Hizbullah is ready to fight if Israel tries to attack.


Original article: ICEJ
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