Jerusalem approves limited call-up of reserve soldiers

Thousands of soldiers tapped, but only a few hundred called-up Wednesday

An Israeli reserve soldier packs his bag before leaving a deployment area near the Gaza border, in November 2012. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
An Israeli reserve soldier packs his bag before leaving a deployment area near the Gaza border, in November 2012. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

The Security Cabinet approved a limited call-up of reserve soldiers as preparations for a possible US strike on Syria and retaliation against Israel intensified on Wednesday afternoon.

The call-up, already under way Wednesday, was mainly for personnel from Home Front Command and the IAF’s Active Defense wing, charged with defending the country from rocket-fire and aerial incursions.

“The cabinet approved the call-up for several thousand reservists; the IDF has so far chosen only to call up a few hundred,” a military source told the Times of Israel.

In all, some 1,000 troops were being called up, to staff missile defense systems, strengthen Home Front Command operations, and bolster some intelligence units, security sources said.

The cabinet met for five hours, and heard briefings about the likely developments concerning an imminent US-led attack on Syria, in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in attacks that killed hundreds of Syrians last Wednesday. Security chiefs told ministers they assessed as low the likelihood of Syria striking at Israel in retaliation for a US attack. On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would respond forcefully to any Syrian threat. On Wednesday, he was quoted encouraging Israelis to maintain their normal routine.

Hebrew media have reported that the US would inform Israel ahead of a US-led strike.

Israeli officials asked residents to keep calm and stick to their normal routines despite threats emanating from Damascus.

“We are getting ready and are prepared, but there is no panic,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday while speaking at a Tel Aviv economic conference. “The Syrians have crossed a red line set by the Americans. We are not dealing with this issue, the West and the Unites States are,” he added.

The limited call up came hours after the IDF was reported to have deployed additional Iron Dome batteries, Arrow short-range rocket defense systems and Patriot missile-defense batteries in the north and areas near the Syrian border.

With the US threatening to attack Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, Israel fears that Syria may respond with an attack on Israel, though officially the army estimates that Damascus will not bomb Israel.

“The Middle East, in the near future, will be characterized by a chronic instability,” the defense minister said in Tel Aviv. “However, our borders are stable despite isolated incidents. Our responses illustrate our own red lines and are based on deterrence.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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