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Intelligence reports indicate Iran-Syria military cooperation

JERUSALEM, Dec. 11 (JTA) — Israel has received Western intelligence reports that Iran recently dispatched a squadron of combat jets to Syria. The reports were unclear whether the jets were intended as a potential strike force against Israel or were part of a joint-training exercise. Military ties between Syria and Iran have strengthened in recent months, according to recent assessments. Earlier this week, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai confirmed that the two countries cooperated in shipping military and civilian supplies to Hezbollah units operating in Lebanon. Ongoing Israeli-Syrian tensions prompted the deputy Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Matan Vilnai, to state that Syrian President Hafez Assad knows he would be “pummeled” by Israel if war broke out between the two countries. The comment prompted Foreign Minister David Levy to criticize Vilnai, adding that such statements only served to heat up tensions. In remarks Wednesday to Israel Radio, Levy also said that peace with Syria would require Israel to cede the Golan Heights. “Whoever thinks it is possible to attain peace without any movement or compromise, I support him, but I just want to know how he is going to achieve this,” Levy said. His comments prompted angry responses from Golan settlement leaders and from the Third Way Party, which broke away from the Labor Party over the Golan issue and is a member of the current coalition.