Israel deploys ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system near Jerusalem
Israel deployed its Iron Dome missile defence system near Jerusalem Sunday, an AFP correspondent said, as the United States lobbied for domestic and international support for military strikes against Syria.
The correspondent said the battery was set up west of the city.
A military spokeswoman would not comment on the deployment, saying only that “defence systems are deployed in accordance with situation assessments.”
Late last month a battery of the mobile system was set up in the greater Tel Aviv area, pointing northwards towards Syria. Israeli media have reported that six or seven such batteries are currently in use.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Israel “an island of tranquillity, quiet and security” amidst “the storm raging around us”, without explicitly mentioning Syria or its ally Iran.
In previous weeks Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel was not involved in the war in Syria, but would “respond with force” if anyone attacked it.
The Israeli line on Syria was reiterated in remarks by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon later Sunday.
“We are not involved in the civil war in Syria unless our interests are compromised,” he said at a counter-terrorism conference in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.
“We are preparing for the ramification of action — or inaction — in Syria,” he continued.
“To our understanding, our neighbours, especially the Syrian regime, understands that whoever challenges us will encounter the power of the IDF (Israeli military), and we are preparing for that.”
Yaalon noted that “we held a security assessment today”, and the bottom line was that Israel was not reverting to a heightened level of alert in the wake of the developments in and regarding Syria.
There are fears that if the United States and its allies attack Syria, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or its Lebanese Hezbollah proxies could retaliate against neighbouring Israel, Washington’s key ally in the region.
Late last month, Iran’s army chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi warned: “Any military action against Syria will drive the Zionists to the edge of fire.”
US President Barack Obama’s administration is seeking to shore up support both at home and abroad for limited military strikes against Syria in retaliation for what it says is the regime’s use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb.
In Washington, Congress is due to begin full debate this week on whether to approve Obama’s plans when it returns from its summer break on Monday.