TEL AVIV (Apr. 24)
Defense Minister Moshe Arens denied reports from Damascus that Israel is massing troops in Lebanon’s Beka valley for an attack on Syrian forces. But he warned the Syrians that if they initiated hostilities against Israel they were bound to be defeated.
Arens, in a radio interview yesterday, said Israel has no intention of attacking Syria. He was responding to Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas’s claim, in a broadcast speech yesterday, that Israel and the U.S. were preparing to attack his country.
Tlas said Syria would repel such an attack with the aid of the Soviet Union and other Arab states. Arens suggested that Syrian war talk was intended to camouflage internal tensions over a possible successor to President Hafez Assad who is believed to be ill. He warned, however, that the need to divert attention from an internal power struggle might tempt the Syrians to warlike adventures.