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IDF Says Syrian Fortification Work in the Bekaa Valley Poses No Danger for the Time Being

The Israel Defense Force disclosed Tuesday that it has been keeping a sharp eye on Syrian fortification work in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon but that for the time being it poses no danger.

The United Nations Disengagement Observers Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights announced that it carried out a routine inspection of military emplacements on both sides of the Israeli-Syrian line Tuesday.

An UNDOF spokesman told reporters there was no tension in the area and nothing irregular on either side. He stressed that the inspection was routine and its timing had nothing to do with recent reports of growing tension between Israel and Syria on the Heights and in Lebanon.

An IDF spokesman said that in recent months the Syrians laid foundations for new fortifications in the southern part of the Bekaa Valley in the vicinity of Lake Karoun where Israeli forces had faced the Syrian army before the IDF was withdrawn from Lebanon last year.

NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN DEPLOYMENT

According to the spokesman, there has been no significant change in the deployment of Syrian forces in the Bekaa Valley. Military sources pointed out however that while the concrete infrastructure built by the Syrians can be described as defensive, the tank positions could be manned rapidly and converted to an offensive posture.

Israeli officials and army officers have been concerned for some time with the Syrian fortifications, gun and tank emplacements and command areas. Details of those developments were not released in the hope that the matter could be resolved by diplomatic means with the help of the U.S., IDF sources said.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy was sent to Damascus to try to persuade Syrian President Hafez Assad to dismantle the new infrastructure, but he refused, the sources said.

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