Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed in a televised statement that his country would “respond powerfully” if it discerns any attempt to harm it, amid signs the U.S. is weighing a military strike on Syria.
Netanyahu met today with top officials with security responsibilities as the U.S. and allies discussed how to respond to an alleged chemical attack outside Damascus that they blame on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian and Iranian officials said earlier this week that a U.S. attack on Syria could draw retaliation directed against Israel.
Following the meeting, the Israeli leader went on television to warn Assad’s government against such a reprisal.
“Israel is not a part of the civil war in Syria, but if we identify any attempt to hurt us, we will respond, and respond powerfully,” Netanyahu said.
According to some Syrian opposition groups, 1,300 people died in the Aug. 21 attack in the Ghouta area. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the alleged assault as a “cowardly crime” requiring a response against the Syrian government. Assad has denied the accusation.
Israel has been caught in similar crossfire in the past. During the first Gulf War in 1991, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fired Scud missiles at the Jewish state after the U.S. attacked Iraq for invading Kuwait.
The Israel Hayom newspaper reported that officials in the northern city of Haifa had ordered residents to get their bomb shelters in order. On Aug. 25, an official reported that the number of requests for government-issued gas masks had tripled the daily average that day.
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