Israel prepares for eventuality of war: ex-official

Updated: 2013-05-07 10:07


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JERUSALEM - Recent airstrikes on Syria carried out by Israel to thwart arms shipments to Hezbollah are not likely to spark an imminent war anytime soon, but Israel has to make full preparations of eventuality of war anytime, a former director of the Shin Bet security service assessed on Monday, local media reported.

"I don't think Israel is going to war, not one similar to the second Lebanon war in 2006, or in any other style," Avi Dichter said in an interview with Army Radio on Monday.

The former Shin Bet chief, who previously headed Israel's Home Front Defense Ministry, said that while a war was not in the offing, Israel "must prepare for scenarios, including severe scenarios, but not panic."

Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, head of the Israeli army's Northern Command, echoed Dichter's assessment. "It will always be right to prepare and train, but there are no winds of war," he said.

The remarks sought to assuage fears in the Israeli public of an imminent Syrian retaliation for two strikes on Syria over the weekend that targeted Iranian shipments of Fateh-110 missiles to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Israel does not officially confirm involvement in pre-emptive strikes meant to thwart the transfer of advanced weapons to its enemies. But foreign media outlets, citing anonymous US and Israeli officials, attributed the strikes on Friday and Sunday which targeted a warehouse at a Damascus airport and a military research facility north of the capital, respectively, to the Israeli Air Force.

Dozens of members of the Republican Guard, an elite Syrian military unit, were killed at one of a number of sites targeted in the second strike, the New York Times reported on Monday, quoting a senior Syrian officer.

While Syria refrained from responding to the strikes, President Bashar Assad has warned that further "Israeli aggression" on Syrian territory would be followed by a declaration of war, The Jerusalem Post reported, quoting a Monday report in the Kuwait daily Alrai.

Assad has notified Washington via Moscow that orders had been issued to deploy missile batteries in the event of another attack, the paper said.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi, speaking at a press conference hours after Sunday's strike on the Jamraya military center on Mount Qassioun north of Damascus, said that the Israeli strikes "open the door to all possibilities," though he did not detail how Syria intends to retaliate.

Israeli media on Monday quoted anonymous officials as saying that the prevalent assessment is that Assad, whose military is heavily engaged in fighting against rebels seeking to topple the regime, would not rush to open a front against Israel.

Despite the optimism, Israel has taken steps to prepare for the eventuality of retribution. Hours before Sunday's strike, the military deployed two batteries of its Iron Dome rocket defense system to the northern cities of Haifa and Safed, and later in the day closed the northern airspace to commercial flights.

Israel has repeatedly said it would take action to prevent advanced weapons, including chemical weapons, from falling into the hands of Hezbollah and other factions that could threaten its security.      

The strikes on weekend, which Israel had allegedly launched from Lebanese airspace, targeted the Fateh-110 deployed in Syria, a guided surface-to-surface missile with a range of 300 kilometers capable of hitting targets in central Israel.

Israel targeted the Syrian stocks since its air defenses would not be capable of intercepting this kind of projectiles in the event of war, Israeli media said.