Israel arms Patriots to protect against possible Syria reprisals

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has moved Patriot anti-missile batteries to the Haifa area and central Israel in response to the threat from Syria.

The Patriots were used during the 1991 Gulf War to protect civilians from Iraqi Scud missiles.

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Following security consultations at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that: “there is no reason to change daily routines. At the same time, we are prepared for any scenario. The IDF is ready to defend against any threat and to respond strongly against any attempt to harm Israeli citizens.”

Meanwhile the Israeli Knesset’s Homefront Preparedness Subcommittee was scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the impact that a military strike on Syria will have on Israel and its citizens, as citizen demand for gas masks remained some 400 percent higher than usual, .

The meeting comes a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a second meeting in two days of his security Cabinet to talk about the situation in Syria.

Syrian and Iranian officials have said that if the United States attacks Syria, Israel will come under attack by the two countries and its other allies in the Middle East.

“If Damascus comes under attack, Tel Aviv will be targeted too and a full-scale war against Syria will actually issue a license for attacking Israel,” the Iranian Fars news agency quoted an unnamed Syrian army official as saying. Rest assured that if Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire and such an attack will, in turn, engage Syria’s neighbors,” he said.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday that the Israeli army will respond to Syria-related attacks on Israel.

“We are aware of the developments unfolding before our eyes in the Middle East, and we hear the threats against Israel, despite it not being involved in the bloody conflict in Syria, or in other conflicts in the region,” Ya’alon said at a ceremony for fallen soldiers on Tuesday night.

“We are reacting responsibly and sensibly to these threats, but are also loud and clear when we say that whoever wants to test us, will be confronted with the IDF’s might,” Ya’alon said.

Ya’alon’s statement Tuesday night came amid accusations by the Syrian opposition that a second chemical attack by the Syrian army in Aleppo killed at least 10. Syrian opposition activists also reported Wednesday that an eastern Damascus neighborhood was struck with mortars delivering poisonous gas, according to Al Jazeera.

Also on Tuesday, the New York Times website was disrupted by a pro-Assad Syrian hacker group, calling itself the “Syrian Electronic Army.”