IDF Begins ‘Extensive’ Military Drills in Golan Heights Amid Heightened Tensions With Syria

The drills come as Turkey, Iran and Russia try to end the fighting in neighboring Syria

The Israeli military claims the drills were planned in advance
The Israeli military claims the drills were planned in advance

The Israeli Defense Forces began “extensive” military drills in the Golan Heights on Sunday. The exercises are expected to last one week, according to Israeli military officials.

The Times of Israel reports:

The exercises in the Golan Heights come at a time of increased tension with Syria, following several reported Israeli strikes on targets in Syria and a Syrian attempt to shoot down an Israeli warplane.

On Saturday a Lebanese paper reported that Syria had sent Israel a message via Russia, warning that it would fire Scud missiles at Israel in the event of further Israeli airstrikes.

Israel has said it would continue to act against attempts by Iran to send advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria.

However, the IDF insists that “the drills were planned in advance as part of the army’s 2017 schedule, and that the exercises are intended to maintain the army’s preparedness.”

We’ve heard this before, though. From September, 2012:

The Israeli Defense Force has begun surprise live-fire war games on the Golan Heights, bordering unstable Lebanon and Syria. Officially, the Israeli military is practicing combat readiness to repel possible sudden attack from Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

The IDF insists the drill is a routine scheduled event, but for unknown reasons withheld from making public how many troops and what military vehicles are being involved in the war games.

But Israel Radio’s military affairs correspondent who is in regular contact with senior officers, said on air that the timing of the exercise was “not mere coincidence.”

What was coincidental about the drills? RT explains:

The IDF has expressed concerns several times that the situation in neighboring Syria, where a civil war is in full swing, might get out of hand. 

And things are still looking like they could still “get out of hand”.

Israel’s ambassador was summoned by Moscow earlier this month after Israeli airstrikes targeted “Hezbollah weapon shipments”. Damascus says that the airstrikes aided Islamic State near Palmyra.

Syria’s U.N. envoy Bashar Jaafari later claimed that Syria’s use of anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli fighter jets was a “message” from Putin.

However, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists the exact opposite; according to Netanyahu, Putin understands that “if there is a feasibility from an intelligence and military standpoint – [Israel will] attack [targets in Syria]”.The IDF drills in the Golan Heights certainly come at an interesting time: “Addressing the flurry of Israeli attacks against Syria in recent days, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says he believes Israel is deliberately trying to help ISIS in an effort to prevent ISIS from suffering outright defeat in Syria amid growing pressure.”

FRANCE – Mossad tried to infiltrate French intelligence services


YNET – The Israeli Mossad allegedly tried to infiltrate the French intelligence services by trying to recruit double agents during a joint operation to learn more about Syria’s chemical weapons program, French newspaper Le Monde reported on Sunday.

According to the paper, from 2010 to 2012, Israeli and French intelligence agencies carried out a joint operation codenamed “Ratafia.”

Several Mossad agents operating under false names were reportedly sent to Paris in an effort to recruit a Syrian engineer with vital information about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.

According to Le Monde, Mossad succeeded in recruiting the Syrian engineer. He reportedly provided Israel with the information it needed to prove that the Syrians were exploiting their scientific cooperation with the European Union to further develop their chemical weapons. This led the EU in 2011 to cancel its cooperation agreement with Syria.

The Ratafia operation was led by the head of the Mossad station in Paris, identified in the Le Monde report only by the initials D.K.

The French General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) claimed that D.K. took advantage of his daily contact with French agents to form closer ties with them, with one French agent being photographed arriving at D.K.’s home for Shabbat dinner.

The same agent told his superiors he was going to Dubai with his family on vacation, but instead went to Israel to meet with Mossad agents in Jerusalem.

Suspicions also arose that the French agent received gifts and cash during that time in violation of the agency’s internal rules.

The French intelligence agencies saw this as a red line that was crossed between friendship among colleagues and an illegitimate attempt to recruit agents.

The heads of the French intelligence agencies filed a complaint with their counterparts in Mossad, resulting in the Mossad station chief D.K. and another Israeli diplomat being sent back to Israel. They have since left the Mossad and are now in the private sector.

Le Monde reported that several of the French agents who participated in the Ratafia operation are expected to lose their security clearance and be transferred to another agency.

The Mossad’s alleged recruiting efforts were discovered when another French agency, entrusted with information security, photographed the French agents with their Israeli counterparts.

The information about this top secret operation was made public as part of an ongoing judicial investigation against Bernard Squarcini, who at the time headed the internal French intelligence agency DGSI.

Squarcini said in his questioning that he was informed by French security services that a “service provider was fraternizing too closely with former French agents who were part of a joint operation with the Mossad. This was likely an attempt by the Mossad to infiltrate French intelligence services.”

According to Squarcini, he came across the two Israelis suspected of trying to recruit the French agents again “by chance” when they returned to France on business.

French authorities are now seeking to question the two former Mossad agents.

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