The Israeli army has set up an Iron Dome anti-rocket battery in the Jerusalem area Sunday, as part of its preparations for a possible American-led strike in Syria. Meanwhile, an Israeli official said Sunday that the U.S. would notify Israel hours in advance of a strike on Syria, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that whatever the U.S. decided to do would affect Israel.
This is the first time an active missile defense system has been deployed in the Jerusalem area. The battery joins three additional Iron Dome systems recently deployed in Gush Dan, near Tel Aviv, and in northern Israel, near Haifa and in the Galilee. The Israel Defense Forces was reportedly also considering deploying another battery in northern Israel.
The chances of Israel being attacked are low, a high-ranking IDF officer said last Wednesday. However, he said, Israel's defense systems have been prepared for the eventuality that a western attack on Syria could make Israel a target of rocket fire.
"Even though the likelihood of such a scenario is low, we have a clear responsibility to prepare for any scenario in order to protect our citizens," he said.
Last Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement regarding the escalation of international pressure on Syria. "The State of Israel is prepared, and there is no reason to change daily routine, but if someone tries to harm Israeli citizens – the IDF will respond forcibly." The prime minister added the IDF decided to deploy additional Iron Dome batteries despite the fact that Syria is not expected to attack Israel.
While formally on the sidelines of the Syrian crisis, Israel fears coming under reprisals from its northern foe should the United States launch strikes to punish Damascus for alleged use of chemical weaponry. Asked how much advance notice Israel would get from its U.S. ally about such attacks, an Israeli official briefed on contacts with Washington told Reuters: "Hours."
But Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau, said separately Israel was, like the rest of the world, in the dark at present. "Will the United States attack? Will it not attack? What will the consequences be? All of these things are unknowns," Amos Gilad said in a speech at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.
Speaking at the same event, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that Israel is ready to deal with the consequences of a potential U.S. assault.
"We are prepared for the consequences of American action or the absence of such action," he said. Although Israelis are saying that Israel is not involved and is not intervening in the Syrian civil war, "if they harm our interests, the country is prepared for the consequences of American action if it is indeed carried out," Ya'alon said. "And any such decision will have an impact on us. As we understand it, our neighbors, particularly the Syrian regime, understand that anyone who challenges us will be met with the power of the Israel Defense Forces."
Speaking at Air Force House in Herzliya, Ya'alon said that after a situation assessment on Sunday by the government's diplomatic-security inner cabinet, Israelis are still advised to maintain their regular routines. The defense minister called on Israelis to go about their daily lives, whether it involves planning for a vacation over the fall Jewish holidays or other plans, which he said would "take place without being affected."
"The American move, which is expected to get Congressional approval or fail to be approved in the near future, is related to the role of the United States and its conception of itself as having moral and political responsibility to maintain the global order," Ya'alon stated.
"What in essence is being challenged by both the Syrian regime and by those that support it and those that are supported by it as a supporter of terrorism is the global order in which governments and leaders have responsibility as sovereigns over their territories and responsibility for their actions."
The Syrian death toll is already 110,000, Ya'alon noted, and this follows what he called "flagrant use of chemical weaponry against [Syrian] citizens."