Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has advised his counterpart in Damascus, Bashar Assad, to "finish Israel off" if it attacks Syria. But is Syria capable of carrying out such threats?
Experts interviewed by Ynet agree the answer is no. The three former defense officials say that while Syria is able to do great damage to Israel's cities, it will probably be incapable of bringing the state to its knees in case of a war.
"Though the Syrians are not capable of wiping us off the map as they would like to, they can still cause great damage to its homefront, its cities and towns," claims Alexander Bligh, Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, US.
Bligh, who served as an aide to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, says he does not predict a military scuffle, but that Israel should take diplomatic steps to prevent it.
"The Syrian regime has always tried to walk a thin line with Israel. But despite its relatively inferior military capabilities, we should not test its strength," he added.
Professor Moshe Maoz, of the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University, agrees with Bligh but says Syria has more to lose than Israel in case of war.
"Syria's main strength and its greatest threat is the battery of long-range missiles held by its army," Maoz says.
"The IDF has a clear strategic advantage, as Syria has not advanced in air and armored corps forces in 20 years. It does not possess missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads."
However Maoz agrees Israel would also sustain significant damage. "In case of a conflict, both sides will suffer. Syria may sustain more damage, but its missiles can reach any city in Israel, and our anti-missile systems will not stop them all," he says.
Like Bligh, Maoz says he does not see a war in the near future. "Each side knows a war would bring mutual damage," he says. "This situation is probable only if Israel attacks Syria, or in case of a military conflict between Iran and Israel, which deteriorates to a war involving Syria. Another scenario is a case in which Israel attacks Lebanon, in which Syria will carry out its threats and become involved."
Oren Shahor, a former coordinator of government activities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip and a chief negotiator with the Palestinians under Rabin, agrees both sides would not rush into military conflict.
"The Syrians will not dare clash with Israel, there is no way," he says. "They are not Hezbollah. The Syrians and Israel have no interest in this because the risks are well-known. Thus we must stop fanning the flames and talk less. The Syrian border has been the calmest border I know, aside from the Jordanian one, for many years."