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Israeli defense officials say the military is conducting its largest snap drill in years. The exercise comes against the backdrop of tensions with Iran and the civil war in Syria.
But other officials say the exercise is unique in terms of number of soldiers and senior officers involved. Part of the exercise is in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights next to Syria.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity according to regulations. Israel is worried that Iran is closer to developing nuclear weapons. It also fears Syria's chemical weapons and missile stocks will fall into rogue hands.
WORLD BANK: PALESTINIAN FISCAL CRISIS IS DEEPENING
The World Bank warned Wednesday of a deepening fiscal crisis in the Palestinian territories and appealed to donors to act urgently to prop up the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
Economists say the cash crisis is the worst in the Palestinian Authority's 18-year existence and threatens to set off a chain reaction of business failures, layoffs and economic downturn. Some warn that the Palestinian Authority, key to negotiating and implementing any future peace deal with Israel, will not survive without a major infusion of cash.
SYRIAN REBELS SEIZE CONTROL OF A BORDER CROSSING
Rebels seized control of a border crossing on the frontier with Turkey on Wednesday, pulling down the Syrian flag and briefly allowing people - some jubilant, some wounded - to crawl under a barbed wire barrier between the countries.
Turkish authorities quickly closed the area and police prevented the crowd from trying to storm the border and cross into Syria.
The conflict has sent refugees pouring into neighboring countries. Some 83,000 refugees have found shelter in 12 camps along the Turkish border with Syria.
Also Wednesday, Amnesty International said the Syrian government has carried out indiscriminate air bombardments and artillery strikes on residential areas that do not target opposition fighters or military objectives, and instead appear aimed solely at punishing civilians seen as sympathetic to rebel forces.
Iran continues to fly military personnel and quantities of weapons into Syria by civilian aircraft which cut through Iraqi airspace, American intelligence sources disclosed early Thursday, Sept. 20. UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon also said that, "Unfortunately, both [Syrian] sides, government and opposition forces, seem to be determined to see the end by military means." Clearly, Iran is augmenting its military involvement in the constantly escalating Syrian civil war, broadening it into a multinational conflict which threatens to drag Lebanon in, by means of the Iranian-Syrian ally, Hizballah. The UN Secretary General's statement implying that the two Syrian sides are determined to fight to the bitter end is echoed in Iran’s resolve to fight to the bitter end for Assad, on Syrian soil. Tehran is not hiding its actions. Sunday, Sept. 16, Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Commander Gen. Ali Jafari said openly that Al Qods Brigades units were present and operational in both Syria and Lebanon. No comment on this revelation has come from the US, Israel or Israel’s military (IDF) chiefs - notwithstanding its menacing import, namely, that Tehran is no longer hanging about and waiting for its nuclear program to be attacked in order to punish Israel, but is getting ready for a pre-emptive operation. Still, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have chosen silence in the face of what any other nation would regard as a casus belli: the open deployment of enemy forces on its northern and eastern borders. This must have been the catalyst for the IDF’s surprise two-division strength drill Wednesday on Israel’s Golan border with Syria. But the IDF spokesman sounded almost apologetic when he explained that the exercise had nothing to do with the events in Syria or with Hizballah, and that it was no more than a routine drill for testing preparedness.