As the US mobilized its forces for a strike against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, the IDF on Wednesday bolstered its missile defense systems in the north of the country, moving two Iron Dome batteries to the north, security officials said.
In addition, the air force was expected to rotate a Patriot anti-missile system out of training and to station it in the Galilee. The Arrow 2, a mid- to long-range missile-defense system, was also being placed on a higher level of readiness.
The government also approved a limited call-up of several hundred soldiers, mostly to bolster Home Front Defense and air defense units.
“In light of the recent occurrences in the region, the IDF is taking the necessary defensive measures to safeguard the State of Israel,” a military source said. “These measures include both active and passive defense mechanisms due to the ongoing situational analysis.”
The source noted that there has been “no change in the Home Front Command’s directive to civilian behavior.”
Israel has a layered defense system, with Iron Dome covering rocket launches from four to 70 kilometers away and Arrow 2 addressing threats from 300 to 1700 kilometers away. Neither the mid-range David’s Sling, which was successfully tested in November, nor the long-range Arrow 3, are operational yet.
According to a Reuters report, however, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the company that created Iron Dome, has been working to increase its range to 250 kilometers.
The shifts in deployment on Wednesday came amid a countdown to a US strike in Syria in response to a near-confirmed chemical attack carried out by the regime in eastern Damascus earlier this month. “We are ready to go,” US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday.
In response, Syria and Iran have both threatened Israel. Khalaf Muftah, a senior Baath Party official who used to serve as Syria’s assistant information minister, said in a radio interview that Damascus would consider Israel “behind the aggression and [it] will therefore come under fire.”
The threats and the possibility of an attack have sent Israelis scrambling to gas mask distribution centers, where lines are long and supplies are running low.
IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai attempted to tamp down domestic fears on Wednesday. In a Facebook post, he wrote that many Israelis are in the middle of pre-holiday shopping, some are cooking, some are in the process of sending their children back to school after summer break and none should be overly concerned about the developments to the north.
“During these days especially, it is important to make clear that the developments surrounding Syria and its significance are being led by the US along with a widening coalition of Middle East states,” he wrote. The IDF is keeping close track of all developments “and therefore there is no reason to make changes to the daily routines of our lives.”
He concluded by saying that the IDF would update the public should the need arise, and added, “Speaking of blessed moments – to my wife – Happy Anniversary!”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emerging from security consultations at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, offered soothing words to Israelis and a warning to its neighbors. “Pursuant to the security consultation that was held today, there is no reason to change daily routines,” he said. “At the same time, we are prepared for any scenario. The IDF is ready to defend against any threat and to respond strongly against any attempt to harm Israeli citizens.”