Syria Threatens New War of Attrition

Syria’s Defense Minister, Mustafa Tlass, has threatened a new war of attrition against Israel. He made the threat last night during a speech to Syrian units of the Arab peace-keeping force in Lebanon. He told the soldiers to be prepared for the battle against Israel.

There was no official reaction in Israel although some sources warned the Syrians that they were “playing with fire.” Political observers noted that Tlass spoke on the eve of President Hafez Assad’s trip to Moscow. Syria has recently received large shipments of aircraft and anti-aircraft missile batteries from the Soviet Union.

They are expected to be supplied soon with Soviet MIG-25s, a highly sophisticated combat plane for which there is no Western counterpart in the region. On the other hand, Israeli circles noted, Syrian ground forces are spread thin because more than 30,000 of their troops are stationed in Lebanon.

Israel is nevertheless concerned by the build-up of air strength and anti-aircraft defenses in Syria. A pilot less Israeli plane shot down over Syria was on a photo reconnaissance mission to determine the size and nature of the Syrian escalation. Its loss was announced yesterday by Air Force Commander Gen. David Ivri. The Syrians claimed that the remote-controlled plane was in fact an Israeli fighter that was downed in an air battle. They later revised their story to conform with the facts. (See separate sto###)

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