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1 Sep, 2013 12:14

'Every possible scenario': Israel readies anti-missile defenses for probable Syrian strike

'Every possible scenario': Israel readies anti-missile defenses for probable Syrian strike

Israel announced it is prepared for "every possible scenario," including a retaliatory strike, in response to a possible US attack on Syria. Over the weekend, the Israeli Defense Force deployed Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in the Tel Aviv area.

With the US threatening to attack Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, Israel fears Damascus may respond by firing missiles at Israel.

“Israel is calm and sure of itself, the citizens of Israel know that we are prepared for every possible scenario,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

Apart from deploying Iron Dome batteries and raising the alert levels of the Patriot and Arrow systems, the Israeli Defense Force canceled weekend leave for soldiers based in the north, Israel Hayom reported. Weekend leave was also canceled for soldiers serving in key units of the Israeli Air Force, Homefront Command and Intelligence Corps, and several hundred reservists have been called up to these units.

With gas mask distribution centers mushrooming around the country, Netanyahu issued a statement Thursday reassuring people that "there is no need to change our routine at this time."

"Despite the low probability that Israel will become involved in what is happening in Syria, we decided to deploy the Iron Dome batteries and other interception systems," Netanyahu said. "We are not involved in the civil war in Syria, but let me reiterate, if someone tries to harm Israel’s citizens, the Israeli Defense Force will respond with immense power."

While polls in the UK and France have found strong opposition to their countries attacking Syria, a similar poll in Israel showed that two-thirds of respondents would support American and European military intervention in Syria.

Israel may be the only pro-Western country where there is widespread support for an American and European attack on Syria, according to Israel Hayom newspaper. Its latest survey, conducted by New Wave Research, showed that 66.8 percent of the Israeli population approve of a possible attack, and only 17 percent are opposed to a US/EU strike.

Up to 73 percent of Israelis believe that an attack against President Assad's regime will ultimately take place. To be on the safe side, over 71 percent of those questioned have already equipped themselves with gas masks.

Israelis queue up to collect gas mask kits at a distribution center in the Mediterranean coastal city of Haifa, northern Israel, on August 29, 2013 (AFP Photo)

Over 57 percent believe if the US attacks Syria, the Israeli Defense Force will act against specific targets or threats. Only 13 percent of Israelis think that things will worsen into an all-out war in the Middle East. Over 28 percent stated they are not concerned that a US attack will drag Israel into a war.

Another poll, published in Friday’s Ma’ariv newspaper, found that Israelis are strongly against an Israeli attack on Syria. If the US does not intervene in Syria, 77 percent of respondents said Israel should not get involved militarily, while only 11 percent believed it should.

The US government claims that Syria is responsible for using banned chemical weapons. US intelligence agencies claim that the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus killed a total of 1,429 Syrian civilians, including 426 children, and that Assad should be held responsible for the attack.

US President Barack Obama used the data to make the case for military retaliation against the Syrian government.

Syria’s Prime Minister has said his country is ready for any possible foreign strikes, saying that “the Syrian army is fully ready, its finger on the trigger, to face any challenge or scenario that they want to carry out,” in a written statement broadcast on television.

On Saturday, Obama said he was putting on hold the plan to strike against Syria until Congress votes on military intervention. A vote is planned for when US lawmakers return from summer recess on September 9.

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said Saturday that the idea that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons on its own people was "utter nonsense," and urged Washington to present its evidence to the UN Security Council. Earlier in the week, the UN chemical inspection team finished its work in Syria and headed to The Hague with samples taken at the sites of the alleged chemical attack. According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it may be two weeks before for final results of their analysis are ready.