ISRAEL IS RIFE with rumours of impending war, as rumblings which began in mid-August intensified through September, becoming daily fare as we go to press.
On October 16, Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said "recent Syrian troop movements may definitely be in preparation for an offensive against Israeli targets in the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon".
Tension has escalated steadily on all Israel's borders, as Egypt, Syria, and Jordan threatened to respond to the "war-mongering" policies of the Netanyahu government.
Events have unfolded as follows:
August 26: Syria moved its 51st armoured division from north Beirut to the Beka'a Valley.
September 13: Israelis learned that 10 000 crack Syrian troops had redeployed towards the Israeli border in the largest mobilisation of Syrian forces since the Yom Kippur War. The London-based Foreign Report disclosed that Syria was "feverishly" building combat positions in the Golan Heights DMZ.
News came on the same day that Egypt was conducting the biggest armed forces exercise in its history; including a simulated massive Egyptian offensive into the Sinai.
IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj-Gen Matan Vilnai said that the Syrian Air Force and troops were in a position to inflict damage on Israel should Syria decide to attack.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that Israel was not seeking military confrontation with Syria, and warned that such a move by Damascus would be "a grave mistake". He also said the Egyptian war games, and statements by Egypt's defence minister that the army was training for war with a neighbouring state "crossed all boundaries".
September 26: The Jordanian newspaper Sot Elmaraa reported that Egypt had overseen the signing of a military agreement between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Syrian government, which called for the two sides to act together in the case of a threat.
Harsh criticism began pouring in from Egypt, with Foreign Minister Amr Moussa calling the Israel leader "an ignoramus or crazy", one newspaper calling on Hamas to "finish Netanyahu off", and another depicting the Israeli premier as Adolf Hitler.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian weekly Ruz Al-Yusuf reported a secret agreement between Egypt and other Arab League states to create political pressure to topple Netanyahu. Mubarak's personal advisor, Osama Al-Baz, alleged in Kuwait that Israel aimed to annex Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and demanded that everything possible be done to stop it.
October 3: Government-controlled Damascus newspapers reportedly had Assad calling for the Arab states to cut off ties with Israel.
October 9: Israel conducted military exercises in the north.
October 10: Jordan warned Israel of "an impending catastrophe in the area", and two days later, the official Syrian newspaper al-Thawra accused Netanyahu of trying to start a war in the Middle East and urged all Arab countries to prepare for a confrontation.
October 13: Egyptian media reported popular sentiment against Israel at a fever pitch, and called for protests against Israel and the US.
October 14: An Israeli radio station reported claims by Lebanese opposition figures in Israel and the US that Syria was planning a military attack against Israel in southern Lebanon during October; an attack that would be triggered by a Lebanese Army attempt, with Syrian military backing, to blitz-capture a portion of the security zone.
October 15: The head of research at Israel's Military Intelligence told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that the "Syrians are talking about a military option, are preparing for it, and are [intending to implement] it in accordance with developments".
October 16: Just as Israel was announcing an imminent breakthrough in the talks on Hebron, Yasser Arafat flew to Cairo and, after meeting with Hosni
Mubarak, told a press conference Israel was trying to alter the agreed-upon IDF redeployment in Hebron. Some Israeli officials expressed concern that Mubarak could be "inciting" Arafat in a deliberate attempt to cause a breakdown in the talks.