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Israel Playing Down Reports of Syrian Troop Movement

Israel is playing down reports of Syrian troop movements in central Lebanon, saying that there is no reason to panic.

The Lebanese paper An-Nahar reported that during the weekend, Syrian vehicles, including tanks, were seen moving from the mountainous Metn region northeast of Beirut toward the Beirut-Damascus highway.

Sources described the redeployment as a defense move against an Israeli air attack.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister David Levy warned against misinterpreting the maneuvers.

“Regarding these maneuvers, we are used to them, we are following them, and we must not get into a panic.”

Syria has some 40,000 troops stationed in Lebanon.

In recent weeks, a number of media reports in Israel suggested that Damascus might be considering a military option in an effort to force a political solution.

During a visit last week to the security zone in southern Lebanon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a painful Israeli retaliation if hostilities escalate there.

He said Syria was interested in fighting an indirect war with Israel through Hezbollah.

But Levy on Monday reiterated Israel’s interest in resuming peace talks with Syria.

Speaking to reporters after meeting in Jerusalem with his Japanese counterpart, Levy said Israel was still waiting for an answer from Syria to Israel’s proposal “to talk without preconditions.”

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