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 security officials 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 may draw retaliation against Israel.
“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 in televised remarks.
Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz said the military was ready to defend the country “by any means necessary and to fight any threat and in any scenario.” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Israel would act responsibly but that “anyone who dares to test us will receive the full strength of the Israeli military.”
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.