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Former IDF officer Yoni on what Israel’s up to in Syria, and what Syria and Iran’s up to regarding Israel.

Monday, September 17, 2007

HH: That music means Yoni joins us,, if you want to read his blog, many years in the Israeli Defense services, now in the Pacific Northwest. Yoni, good to talk to you.

YT: How are you, Hugh?

HH: Did you have a good Rosh Hashanah?

YT: I had a great Rosh Hashanah.

HH: Well, I’m glad to hear that. And now, what did the Israelis do, and when did they do it?

YT: What we did on the 6th of September is we inserted elite ground troops into Syria on the eastern side of Syria near the Euphrates River in a region that’s called Deir Ez-Zour, and these elite units on the ground assisted a flight of F-15s in destroying two locations in Syria. One location, which nobody is talking about anymore, was a major weapons depot of weapons that had been shipped from Iran to Syria, for then trans-shipment into Lebanon to Hezbollah, which included long range missiles that could hit the whole state of Israel. And the second location was a facility that was storing equipment that had arrived in Syria on the 3rd of September from North Korea that was nuclear weapons components.

HH: Now what kind of components would they be sending through to Syria, on their way to Iran, I assume?

YT: No, on their way to Syria.

HH: What is…Syria doesn’t have a program, do they?

YT: Syria’s trying to jump start a program.

HH: Now first of all, tell us your sources for this stuff.

YT: Guys I used to work with.

HH: All right. And so this is not…you’ll see some of this hinted at in the write-up in the Times of London, et cetera. So are you in trouble for discussing this on the air?

YT: No.

HH: Okay.

YT: No, enough of it’s leaked out that…you know, I mean, we’re fine.

HH: Now talk to me a little bit about what you mean by jump start. What were they trying to build? What did they have there? Do you know?

YT: That, no, I don’t know, other than my friend said components that would lead them to be able to put together nuclear weapons. I think, reading between the lines, what they are trying to do is bring in the components that they could then just assemble, and have a ready bomb, rather than trying to produce, like Iran is trying to produce, from the ground up. They were wanting to get kind of, you know, a do-it-yourself kit from North Korea, and put it together, and then hit Israel.

HH: Now given this, does this tip the hand of the Israelis, vis-a-vis Iran, as Iran gets closer?

YT: Oh, yes and no. I mean, Iran is today, they’ve threatened us that they could hit us with 600 missiles, which is just an empty threat, because they’re scared to death, because Iran and Syria, late spring, early summer, I don’t recall the exact time frame, both purchased from Russia the same so-called state of the art air defense system.

HH: And you just took it down easily?

YT: We just went through it like it wasn’t even there.

HH: Now how did that happen? Is that because of stealth technology? Or did they do something on the ground?

YT: That I’m not going to get into.

HH: Okay. The sum and substance of this popular support in Israel for the action?

YT: Oh, absolutely. Look, we did two things in one week that herald the bad days are potentially behind us. We did this raid into Syria, and in addition to that, we had undercover troops go into Gaza and grab one of the main guys behind the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, the soldier that was kidnapped and taken into Gaza.

HH: I missed that entirely.

YT: Well, you don’t go to often enough.

HH: When did that happen?

YT: The same week, the first week of September, as the air raid.

HH: And what branch of the service did that?

YT: The IDF, the ground forces. We have elite units, and what they did is they went in dressed up as Arabs on donkey carts, and were able to get close to the guy, grabbed him, and then a helicopter pops up over the fence and sets down in the open area, and picks everybody up and back to Israel they go.

HH: And what are they going to do with him? Trade him?

YT: Well, let’s just say right now, we’re getting information from him.

HH: And it’s been how long since the change at Defense? Obviously, I’m not talking about Barak’s return, but the new chief of staff.

YT: It’s been now, oh, maybe nine months.

HH: And so what’s the impact on the armed services?

YT: Huge, huge. Guys are training like they’re supposed to. Guys that haven’t trained in seven, eight years that we put into combat last summer now are back to training like they’re supposed to. We’re spending a lot of money getting them new equipment. You know, the situation, you wouldn’t know it from the American media, but as we speak, Israel is at the highest state of alert that we can be.

HH: Why?

YT: Because of massive Syrian troop movements, because Assad’s brother-in-law and some of the top generals told Assad that he has to hit Israel back for what we did, or they will take action. Well, we know in an Arab country what that means. They’ll just take him out behind the palace and put a bullet in his head. So things are pretty hectic, and we’ve got, you know, troops were not sent home for Rosh Hashanah, nor will they be sent home for Yom Kippur. Things are at a very high state of alert right now.

HH: But I check Ha’aretz every day. It’s not really evident from that, is it, that they’re…

YT: We have military censors.

HH: Oh, I’d forgotten that.

YT: There are things that when it pertains to state security, that they won’t publish inside Israel.

HH: And so what is the threat level right now, you think, in Israel?

YT: I think, well, if we’re at the highest, if our forces are at the highest stage of alert, the threat level is very high.

HH: And so, what I’m getting at, how routine is that level of alert?

YT: It’s not routine at all. I mean, when you’ve got extra aircraft in the air, we have got extra aircraft with pilots sitting in the seats on the runways, when you’ve got soldiers in the thousands that you would have sent home for the holiday, and you keep them there, I mean, that causes a huge inconvenience to families, because you don’t get to see your kids often enough when they’re in the military. You know, your kids are out running for three days straight without sleep across the desert and things like that, it’s a huge inconvenience.

HH: We will then be watching Thanks, Yoni.

End of interview.

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