More Iron Dome batteries deployed near Tel Aviv, in north

PM says IDF ‘stronger than ever’; preparations for war continue though leaders say Israeli involvement in Syrian crisis ‘improbable’

An Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system placed in the Dan region, on November 16, 2012. (Alon Besson/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)
An Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system placed in the Dan region, on November 16, 2012. (Alon Besson/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)

The IDF deployed several additional Iron Dome missile defense batteries in the Dan region around Tel Aviv and in the north Friday, as part of the army’s continued preparations for the possibility of conflict with Syria.

The deployment was accompanied by the stationing of longer-range Patriot anti-missile batteries in the north  and center of the country. The air force has also raised the readiness level of its Arrow 2 batteries, which are tasked with intercepting long-range missiles from deep inside Syria or Iran.

An Iron Dome battery was deployed near Tel Aviv during last November’s skirmish with Hamas in Gaza, but was pointed south. This time, the focus is on the north, and a possible attack from Syria and/or Lebanon in the wake of any US strike on the Assad regime.

On Thursday, the IDF cut back on leave for soldiers in units stationed in the north. It has also called up several hundred reservists, including personnel to staff missile defense systems.

Even as preparations for possible war continue, Israeli officials stressed that any escalation in Syria is unlikely to involve Israel.

“There is no need to change our routine at this time,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a YouTube video released Thursday (Hebrew link) of him speaking at the start of a meeting with defense officials at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv. “Israel is prepared,” he said.

“Despite the low probability that Israel will become involved in what is happening in Syria, we decided to deploy the Iron Dome batteries and other interception systems” as a precaution, he added.

Netanyahu, who met with security chiefs in Tel Aviv late into Thursday, added: “We are not involved in the civil war in Syria. But let me reiterate, if someone tries to harm Israel’s citizens, the IDF will respond with immense power.”

On Friday, after further security consultations, Netanyahu praised the Israeli armed forces, saying the IDF was “stronger than ever.”

IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz made similar comments Thursday night, telling Israelis they could go about their daily lives as usual, prepare for the coming festivals, and that the army was “ready for any scenario.”

Meanwhile, Hezbollah was reported to be mobilizing its forces in southern Lebanon on Thursday night in preparation for a possible US-led strike on Syria, and was said to be considering various retaliatory options against Israel should such an attack take place.

The top leadership of the Shiite terror group, which is closely aligned with the Assad government in Syria, was holding intensive discussions about the possible consequences of an attack on Syria and the appropriate response against Israel, Channel 10 reported, citing reports in the Lebanese media.

Hezbollah has raised its alert level and has begun deploying forces in south Lebanon in response to the current international debate over a possible attack on Syria in response to last week’s alleged chemical weapons use by Syrian forces, the report said.

But Hezbollah is unlikely to attack Israel unless a Western assault on Syria aims to topple Assad or seriously damage the Syrian army’s capabilities, a senior source with ties to Hezbollah told the Daily Star on Wednesday.

“If the Western attack is limited to certain targets in Syria, then Hezbollah will not intervene,” the source said.

However, “in the event of a qualitative [Western military] strike that aims to change the balance of power in Syria, Hezbollah will fight on various fronts,” he added, an event that “will plunge Lebanon virtually and immediately into the inferno of a war with Israel.”

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