(Corrects to Israel in seventh paragraph.)
Israel’s military bolstered its defenses near the northern border, media reported, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against any retaliatory attack on his country, amid signs the U.S. is preparing to strike Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons.
With talk of war escalating, the prime minister tried to reassure Israelis that they were in safe hands. “There is no reason not to follow routine,” Netanyahu said in an e-mailed statement today. “At the same time, we are preparing for any scenario. The Israeli military is ready to protect the people of Israel and to respond forcefully against any threat.”
The army deployed a second Iron Dome missile defense system outside the city of Haifa and put an Arrow missile defense battery on alert for medium-range weapons including the Shihab missile developed by Iran, the Ynet news site reported, without saying where it got the information. Israel Radio reported that cabinet ministers approved a limited reserves callup. Military spokesmen said they were checking the reports.
Both Syria and Lebanon, home to the Hezbollah militia backing the Syrian government in its war against rebels, lie to Israel’s north.
According to some Syrian opposition groups, 1,300 people died in an Aug. 21 chemical attack in the Ghouta area outside Damascus. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the alleged assault as a “cowardly crime” requiring a response against the Syrian government.
It would be the first foreign military intervention against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since fighting broke out more than two years ago, claiming more than 100,000 lives, according to United Nations estimates.
Iranian officials have said any Western attack on ally Syria could result in reprisals targeting Israel. 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.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told a Tel Aviv conference that Israel does not seek to interfere in the Syria conflict and wants to maintain quiet on its borders, yet will respond to any “provocation.”
In recent years, Syria has avoided engaging the Israeli military even when it was suspected of direct attacks on Syrian targets, including a suspected nuclear site in 2007 and arms convoys and facilities this year.
To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com