Israel defiant any attack would provoke its ‘great might’
Netanyahu makes it clear restraint was not an option
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks out with his children after collecting gas mask kits at a distribution point in Jerusalem
Following a number of threats from Syrian officials over the last few days to target Israel in the event of an American strike, Israel has indicated such a scenario would provoke such a harsh Israeli response that it could endanger the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made it clear restraint was not an option.
“The state of Israel is ready for any scenario,” he said. “We are not part of the civil war in Syria but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond, and we will respond with great might.”
Israel’s top general, chief of staff Lieut Gen Benny Gantz, made it clear Israel will not be taken by surprise. “Those who wish to harm us will find us sharper and firmer than ever. We’re determined to defend our citizens by any action necessary against any threat we will face.”
Despite the tough talk, the assessment remains that the probability of a Syrian attack on Israel remains low. Mr Assad’s overwhelming priority remains to defeat the rebels, and provoking an Israeli military response can only weaken his capabilities.
Israel believes the probability of a Syrian strike will increase in the unlikely scenario the American attack is so harsh that it threatens to undermine the Assad regime.
A Syrian response could see short-range rocket fire at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. There may also be a more extreme reaction, in the form of longer-range rockets fired at the Galilee and southwards.
Israel expects to be informed by the Americans a few hours before a western attack, and once such a message is received air defence and home-front command units will be put on a top state of alert.
The security cabinet has approved a limited call-up of hundreds of army reservists. Two extra Iron Dome air-defence missile batteries have been deployed in the north in addition to the battery positioned outside Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel, a few weeks ago. The alert of long-range Arrow and medium-range Patriot missile-interception systems has been raised.
So far there are no signs of panic and Israelis are continuing to take vacations in the north. Citizens have been told not to change their routine.
However, this week has seen a sharp rise in Israelis collecting gas mask kits. Only 60 per cent of the population have gas masks. In response to the long queues at gas mask distribution centres, defence officials expressed frustration that citizens only decided to pick up their kits in response to the events in Syria.
Some heads of northern councils also complained bomb shelters were inadequate to deal with any significant attack.
The German magazine Focus reported that Israel’s prestigious 8200 intelligence unit intercepted a conversation between high-ranking Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical agents at the time of last week’s attack, providing the “smoking gun” proof that regime forces were responsible.