Jerusalem – The Syrian army has recently conducted a series of comprehensive maneuvers, in light of the regime’s assessment that a military confrontation with Israel could break out in the summer months. The Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported that these maneuvers were carried out last month.

Several weeks ago, Israeli intelligence sources revealed that the Syrians had decided to shorten the army’s training year and to move up the large annual exercises in order to be prepared for a confrontation in the summer. This refers to maneuvers that enable the Syrian army to practice at all levels, including operational frameworks of different sizes.

Meanwhile, Israel continues intensive training in the Golan Heights, as part of the IDF’s preparations for the possibility of another armed round in the north in the coming summer. Last week, the Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi visited the Northern Command, met with high-ranking officers and examined the operational plans and readiness of the Northern Command. About three weeks ago, the IDF completed a large-scale headquarters exercise, which among other things, examined the readiness and plans of the Northern Command in light of the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War.

High-ranking military sources in the IDF have repeatedly pointed out that the Syrian maneuvers simulate mainly defensive scenarios, not offensive scenarios. Along with the maneuvers, the Syrians are engaging in accelerated fortification activity on the Golan Heights.

The assessment in Israel is that the Syrians will launch terrorist activity in the Golan Heights area with the intention of drawing Israel into a confrontation. According to the Syrian understanding, they have the ability to exact a painful toll from Israel – mainly on the home front – in the short term. For the past few months, the Syrians have been engaged in an unprecedented campaign of purchasing and upgrading weapons systems.

Bush Considering Giving Updated ‘Two State’ Speech

U.S. President George Bush is considering to deliver soon a major address on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which he may announce renewed efforts to revive his two-state vision. This is according to reports that have reached Jerusalem.

According to the reports, which have arrived from a number of sources, Bush is considering presenting his address on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the famous speech in which he presented the two-state vision – a speech that was delivered on June 24. Sources in the U.S. administration said that the address is expected to include “new ideas” that will be based on the original speech. The final decision on the address has not yet been made, and there is a debate in the administration over the question whether it is advisable to present such an address, and if so, over its content.

The timing of the address is related to the timing of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to Washington, where he is scheduled to meet with President Bush on June 19 in the White House. Afterward, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to come to the region.

Al-Qaida Grows Stronger In Gaza

The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that the al-Qaida-aligned network has been gaining strength in the Gaza Strip.

The al-Qaida network, comprised of former Hamas members, has been expanding in the Gaza Strip. The sources said the network, said to consist of at least 100 operatives, has received funding from abroad in a campaign to impose Islamic law on Palestinians.

On Saturday, the shadowy network, which has assumed several names, asserted that women staffers on Palestinian Authority television were behaving immodestly and anti-Islamic. The so-called Righteous Swords of Islam warned that the women could be targeted by al-Qaida supporters.

“It’s indeed disgraceful that the women working for the official Palestinian media are competing between each other to display their charms,” the Righteous Swords said in a statement.

The warnings came amid an assertion by Fatah security chief Mohammed Dahlan that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has lost control of the Gaza Strip. Dahlan, a security adviser to Abbas, said Hamas now controls the Gaza Strip.

The Righteous Swords was said to have been linked to about 70 attacks on Internet cafes, cellular phone shops and video stores in the Gaza Strip. All of these facilities were deemed as anti-Islamic.

David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2007

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.