Israel stands down in wake of Syrian threat

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s military sent home many of the reservists called up to deal with the threat from Syria, as Syria called on the United Nations to protect it from attack.

The decision made Sunday to release the reservists, who remain on alert status, after President Obama announced that he would seek Congress’ approval to launch a limited military strike on Syria when the legislative body reconvenes next week after its summer recess.

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The Israeli daily Haaretz, citing unnamed Israeli officials,  reported that Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, several hours before his Rose Garden announcement, to tell him that the strike, meant to punish Syria for using chemical weapons against its citizens, would be delayed pending Congressional approval.

Netanyahu has instructed his government ministers to refrain from publicly criticizing or praising Obama for his decisions regarding Syria.

Meanwhile, Syria ambassador to the United Nations in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international body to prevent military action against it to “push forward in reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria,” and to “prevent the absurd use of force out of the frame of international legitimacy,” Reuters reported, citing Syrian state news agency SANA.

Syria denies that it used chemical weapons against its citizens.

At the dedication Monday of a new highway interchange, Netanyahu called on Israeli citizens to “go out and enjoy the holiday, and if someone thinks of harming the tranquility of the holiday, he knows what awaits him.”

“Our state is peaceful, certain of the strength of the IDF and sure in itself because it knows that it can defend itself. I will not allow anyone to harm the State of Israel,” he said.