Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on Israelis to carry on with their
daily routines Wednesday in light of a possible US strike on Syria, even as the
security cabinet approved a limited call-up of reservists in vital military
The dual message of “stay calm but be prepared,” one
government official said, reflected the continued assessments in Jerusalem that
there was a “low probability” that Syria would actually strike Israel, but also
reflected the government’s responsibility to prepare for all sorts of scenarios,
“no matter how unlikely.”
The IDF deployed air defenses around the
country on Wednesday and called up a few hundred reserve soldiers ahead of the
expected American strike, but these measures are basic precautionary ones, and
the chances of a Syrian retributive attack on Israel remain low, a senior
military source stressed.
“We have a clear responsibility to prepare the
army for all possibilities.
We took a number of decisions to prepare
ourselves for a scenario we hope will not materialize,” he added.
of the preparations, the IAF deployed Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries in Haifa,
Ashkelon and Eilat, and is set to place additional batteries in the northern
regions of Amakim and Safed.Crisis in Syria - full JPost.com coverage
“We’ll take additional decisions down the
line about placing Iron Dome batteries in northern areas, and possibly further
south,” the military source said.
Patriot and Arrow 3 anti-ballistic
missile batteries, which are deployed at all times, have also been moved around
As of Wednesday evening, a few hundred reservists had been
ordered to report for IAF duty – including Iron Dome operators – as well as for
Military Intelligence and Home Front Command roles.
“We can expand the
call-up if necessary. But this is not a widespread call-up,” the army source
The IDF’s overall state of readiness is at normal, he
“We’ll only change this when the US begins operating in Syria.
There are no special orders from the IDF’s Operations Branch, other than orders
for front-line units to be prepared for the possibility of a cancellation of
weekend leave,” the source stated.
He added that “naturally forces that
are on the northern front lines, particularly on the Golan Heights, will be on
high alert over the weekend.”
The Home Front Command, too, has urged
members of the public to continue their lives as usual. It reported receiving
20,000 calls to its hot lines in the past day, causing the lines to
“We’ve had far higher call numbers in the past. We will upgrade
the phone lines,” the source said.
Similarly distribution centers for gas
masks have been experiencing a surge of visits from concerned citizens, and
extra staff will be sent to handle the increase in activities.
source speculated that the timing of the US strike would depend on a few
variables, such as the exit of UN chemical weapons inspectors from Syria.
According to his assessment, the strike will occur sometime around this
“The public should know that the chances of Syrian retribution
against Israel are low,” he repeated, calling for calm.
Asked about IDF
assessments regarding the chances of rocket fire from smaller terrorist
organizations like Islamic Jihad in Gaza, which reportedly threatened to respond
to a Syria strike by firing on Israel, he said there was “no indication they
decided to [carry out their threats]. But the possibility of attacks by terror
groups in Gaza and Sinai is also being factored in.”
probability” estimation is due in part to Israeli assessments that Syrian
President Bashar Assad is cognizant of messages Jerusalem has delivered, which
make clear that an attack on Israel would ignite a counter-attack that would
bring his regime down.
Following the security cabinet meeting in which
ministers approved the limited callup of reservists, Netanyahu issued his
statement that Israelis need not alter their daily routine.
made the decision after hearing briefings from IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen.
Benny Gantz and senior Defense Ministry officials.
“The IDF is ready to
defend against any threat and prepared to respond severely against any attempt
to harm Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said in his post-meeting
Security officials said Jerusalem and Washington were in close
contact, and that the US would likely give Israel a few hours’ notice before
launching any type of attack.
After the meeting, Defense Minister Moshe
Ya’alon said at an economics conference that the deliberations in the cabinet
had taken place in a “reasoned and responsible” manner.
line,” he said, was that Israel was preparing and taking the appropriate
measures, but doing so in a responsible way that would neither sow panic nor
lead to unwanted escalation.
“We need to prepare,” he said, “but we also
need to maintain the daily routine.”
Ya’alon repeated a message he and
Netanyahu have expressed numerous times since the start of the week: that Israel
was not “trigger happy,” but that anyone in the region who might think this was
the time to “challenge” Israel would be met with its full force.
what was taking place in Syria was part of a once-in-a-century historical
“We are not involved or interfering,” he made
“The Syrians crossed the red line the US set out, of not using
chemical weapons against civilians. The pictures are horrible. Humanity cannot
tolerate this reality, but we are not the ones dealing with this. Rather, it is
being done by the West, led by the US.”
Over the last two days, and in an
effort to keep tight control of the messages coming out of Jerusalem, Netanyahu
and Ya’alon were the only ministers speaking publicly about the situation in
In addition, both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign
Ministry are doing their utmost to broadcast a “business as usual” atmosphere,
denying that they are on any kind of emergency footing.
At the same time,
the Foreign Ministry canceled a conference scheduled to take place in Jerusalem
early next week for ambassadors in some 20 key capitals around the world. One
ministry official explained that the move to postpone the conference stemmed
from a decision that at this time the ambassadors were needed in their