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Israel to get advance warning on Syria strike, official says

Source tells Reuters that Jerusalem will get a heads-up from Washington hours ahead of planned attack on Damascus

Israeli soldiers walk by an Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near Jerusalem, September 2013. (photo credit Flash90)
Israeli soldiers walk by an Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near Jerusalem, September 2013. (photo credit Flash90)

The US will warn Israeli authorities ahead of any attack against Syria, a high-ranking Israeli official said Sunday, according to a report.

The unnamed official told Reuters that such a notification will occur “hours” before the US decides to carry out an offensive against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israeli officials have ramped up preparations in the past weeks ahead of expected US military action against Syria, though they have also tried to calm the country, saying there is little chance Syria, Iran or terror group Hezbollah will retaliate, as they have threatened.

On Sunday, an Iron Dome battery was deployed near Jerusalem for the first time, following deployments of other anti-missile batteries in the north and near Tel Aviv. The battery near Tel Aviv was moved on Saturday.

The decision to deploy the missile-defense platform near Jerusalem was made by the army’s top brass following an updated assessment of the situation. The move came after a meeting of the security cabinet Sunday.

“The IDF doesn’t provide information about its defensive array,” the army said in a statement. “The missile-defense system is deployed according to updated assessments.”

Sirens sounded in Jerusalem during the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, catching residents of the capital off-guard. It was the first time in over 20 years that air raid sirens sounded in the capital, the last time being the 1991 Gulf War. No missiles landed in the city, but two fell nearby.

Turkey and Jordan have also begun to boost readiness in preparation for possible US action.

Over the past couple of days, the Turkish army was reported to have stationed anti-aircraft missile batteries along the country’s border with Syria, according to Israel Radio.

A Turkish TV station reported that a battery of Stinger missiles was placed in Turkey’s Hatay province, while CNN reported that additional batteries were deployed in the country’s southeastern regions.

In Jordan, security officials said authorities had begun taking precautions ahead of a US strike, according to an Israel Radio report Sunday, citing Jordanian media.

The possible US strike would come in response to a reported chemical attack by the Syrian regime in late August that left some 1,400 people dead according to an American assessment. Obama is hoping to get approval from Congress later this week for  a “limited” punitive response.

Syrian President Bashar Assad denies responsibility, though he has been accused of using gas previously in his country’s two-and-a-half-year civil war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials have assessed a “low” probability of the Assad regime or its allies hitting Israel in response to a US-led attack on Syria, though Syrian and Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to strike Israel if Obama goes ahead with military intervention.

Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel remained an island of stability and safety in the unstable Middle East because of what he called “sober” policies and unspecified actions by security agencies, some of which were not known to the public.

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