Israel is growing more concerned about unprecedented military purchases and stepped-up training by Syria, at levels not seen since the 1973 Middle East war, its envoy to the United States said on Wednesday.
"Syria is developing into a very serious threat," Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor told a luncheon sponsored by the Israel Project, a group that promotes the country's agenda. "We hope it's not offensive but we're not sure."
A significant build-up of missile capability by Syria could "create major damage to Israel" and Russia was supplying the arms to Damascus, he said, without providing specific details of the source for that information.
Meridor said Israel had tried to make it clear that it had no "offensive intentions" toward Syria, but added the Israeli government was working to make sure it was not surprised or unprepared if attacked.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war and annexed the territory in 1981. The two sides have so far failed to negotiate a resolution over the strategic plateau.
Syria has expressed interest in resuming talks but also has hinted at military action if it found diplomacy at a dead end. Israel has demanded Syria first stop sponsoring Hizbullah and Palestinian terror groups.
The United States, Israel's close ally, has accused Syria of sponsoring terrorism, aiding Hamas militants as well as supplying Hizbullah, a guerrilla group that has tried to bring down the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Meridor largely declined to comment on the political turmoil at home, but he did encourage Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to remain in office despite calls for his resignation amid criticism for his handling of the war with Lebanon last year.