DM Barak toured the Golan Heights and met with commanders, officers and troops responsible for the sector.

 DM Barak tours Golan Heights


DM Barak touring the Golan Heights (Photo: Ariel Hermoni, MOD)

Minister of Defense Ehud Barak toured the Golan Heights on Tuesday (3 June 2008), and met with reservists and regular troops and officers. Following are excerpts from the press conference held during the tour:

Question: During your tour of the sector, you stated that while the situation is currently calm, it could potentially ignite in seconds. In light of this, what is your impression of Hizbullah’s deployment along the border and in the villages?"

DM BARAK: Hizbullah is building up its munitions supplies, its deployment, its fortified positions, not only in the villages right here, but also in an additional 150 villages deeper inside Lebanese territory. This is in complete contradiction to Security Council resolution 1701, and a gross violation of that resolution.

Things appear calm on the surface, you can see the UN positions, the mosque, but here there are no illusions. We have with us today Gadi Eizenkott, commander of the Northern Command, and Division Commander Imad Fares, and the various regiments, including reserve units, who patrol the sector day and night, ascertaining their preparedness. All are ready for any possible occurrence. We expect calm, but are prepared for any eventuality. 

Question: President Bashar Assad has stated that he expects not only the return of the Golan Heights, but also the return of areas up to Tiberius. Are you aware of this statement, and what does Israel think of it?

DM BARAK: I have not heard this statement, nor do I think that anyone in Syria, not even the President, Assad, imagines such a possibility. We are at present in initial discussions with the Syrians, which are intended to determine if there is any possibility of direct negotiations in the future, in which we will discuss all the issues. But the issues themselves are necessarily similar to those in any negotiation – tough decisions and concessions must be made, but this is reciprocal. What I mean is both Assad and Israel will have difficult decisions to make – in both directions.

Question: Do we know if the Syrians are continuing to transfer arms to the Hizbullah?

DM BARAK: The Syrians are cooperating intimately with Hizbullah, and they are, for the most part, responsible for the transfer of equipment and arms to Hizbullah, and for their military buildup. Obviously, we hold Hizbullah itself as ultimately responsible for its actions on the one hand, and the Iranians and Syrians on the other.