IDF predicts possible conflict with Lebanon, Syria in 2007

The Israel Defense Forces strategic assessment for 2007 warns of the possibility of a conflagration with Lebanon and Syria in the coming year. The assessment is based on the IDF’s working plan for the year, which takes into account the lessons learned in the 2006 Lebanon War.

A senior military source said Wednesday that the IDF has identified a decline in regional stability in the Middle East, giving rise to the possibility of hostilities involving Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian Authority and Iran.

The source also said that the presence of Global Jihad movement has been detected in the region. The head of Military Intelligence, Brigadier General Amos Yadlin, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Al-Qaida agents have arrived in Lebanon from Iraq and Pakistan with the intention of attacking United Nations troops and Western interests in the country.

Yadlin said he believes there are “dozens to a hundred” Al-Qaida operatives in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the deputy leader of Hezbollah, Naim Qassam, told Al-Jazeera satellite television on Wednesday that there were ongoing negotiations over a prisoner swap between Israel and the Iranian-backed group, whose kidnap of two IDF soldiers in July 2006 sparked the 34-day conflict between the two.

“The negotiations are not being conducted through media interviews,” he said. “Meetings are taking place behind the scenes in order to discuss details and terms for carrying out the prisoner exchange. When it reaches the results stage, then it will be possible to make an announcement.”

Qassam’s remarks are relatively unusual, as Hezbollah rarely speaks of negotiations, which, according to initial reports are taking place through German and United Nations mediation.