"We are preparing for a second war," said Lieutenant Colonel Guy Hazoot, chief of the division responsible for the Israeli-Lebanese border.
“We are very optimistic, but on our side we must do everything to prepare for a worst scenario and we are readying for a scenario that Resolution 1701 will not succeed," he said, referring to the UN Security Council resolution that was adopted in August to end 34-days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.
Following the UN brokered truce, several top Israeli officials said that Israel must prepare for a second conflict with Hezbollah, which they claim is armed by Syria and Iran.
Both Damascus and Tehran deny the charges.
Hazoot was speaking to reporters from the Israeli-Lebanon border, where Hezbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12 in a cross-border raid that also left eight Israeli troops dead.
"We will not give Hezbollah the opportunity to come back to these positions," he said.
Israel claimed that its offensive in Lebanon, which killed more than 1,200 Lebanese civilians, was aimed at releasing the two captured soldiers.
The soldiers haven’t been released and Hezbollah insists that they would only be freed in exchange for Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.
Another top Israeli military official told Ha’aretz that “all preparations are being made to ensure maximum preparedness” because military assessments show that Hezbollah and Syria will “launch war against Israel next summer”.
The official also said that the Israeli army decided to suspend plans for a multiple-year force build-up and consider 2007 as an interim period on grounds that the lessons of the offensive on Lebanon last summer have not been finalized in reports.
According to Ha'aretz, the Israeli war projection was part of assessments made by the army’s General Staff during a series of meetings in recent weeks.
The daily reported that Israeli national security officials decided to take a series of measures to prepare Israel for a possible war.
Among these measures is the development of a system capable of intercepting 220 and 302-milimeter surface-to-surface rockets, the same kind of missiles that Hezbollah used to target Israeli towns during the recent conflict.
Security officials also decided to postpone for a year the decision made by the previous defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, to shorten the duration of military service for conscripts by four to eight months, which was expected to go into effect in March 2007.
Keeping the current terms of service will allow for the training necessary to enable divisions to be get ready for combat and to strengthen their effectiveness in battle, Ha’aretz said.
The newspaper also stated that the General Staff’s plans would soon be considered by Israel’s National Security Council, which is led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Despite the Israeli claims that Syria is preparing for an attack on the Jewish state, Syria’s foreign minister said on Monday that his country was ready to resume peace talks with Israel and urged the Israeli government to heed calls from within the country for renewed negotiations, The Associated Press news agency reported.
"We appreciate the Israeli voices who call for the resumption of the peace process with Syria," Walid al-Moallem said during a news
conference in Damascus with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store.www.aljazeera.com